U.S. Constitution Losing Influence as Model for Other Nations

Wednesday, February 08, 2012
Once the standard by which new governments modeled their own public contract with citizens, the U.S. Constitution is losing its appeals with other countries, particularly regarding human rights.
Three decades ago, it was estimated that 160 nations had modeled their constitution after that of the United States.
Today, however, “constitutional similarity to the United States has clearly gone into free fall,” according to a new academic study appearing in the New York University Law Review. “Over the 1960s and 1970s, democratic constitutions as a whole became more similar to the U.S. Constitution, only to reverse course in the 1980s and 1990s.
“The turn of the twenty-first century, however, saw the beginning of a steep plunge that continues through the most recent years for which we have data, to the point that the constitutions of the world’s democracies are, on average, less similar to the U.S. Constitution now than they were at the end of World War II.”
The authors of the study, David S. Law and Mila Versteeg, cite several reasons for the change, including:
·       The U.S. Constitution “offers relatively few enumerated rights. While the catalog of rights found in other constitutions has steadily grown, the laconic U.S. Constitution has not added any rights at all over the last century.”
·       “Among the relatively few rights that the U.S. Constitution does contain are provisions that happen to be rare at a global level. One is the Establishment Clause: today, only about one-third of the world’s constitutions provide expressly for a separation of church and state.99 Another is a right that is now so rare that it has become practically sui generis—namely, the right to bear arms. The only other constitutions in the world today that still feature such a right are those of Guatemala and Mexico.”
·       “The U.S. Constitution is, instead, rooted in a libertarian constitutional tradition that is inherently antithetical to the notion of positive rights.” For example, whereas more than 90% of the world’s constitutions insure women’s rights, the issue is not addressed in the U.S. Constitution. Likewise, the vast majority of constitutions insure the right to social security, health care and food, these are not considered protected rights in the United States.
·       The U.S. Constitution, the oldest still in force in the world, is extremely difficult to amend (only one amendment in the last forty years) is considered obsolete for newly emerging democracies.
Speaking last week in Egypt, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that in regards to human rights she “would not look to the United States Constitution if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012.” Instead, she recommended the South African Constitution, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the European Convention on Human Rights.
-David Wallechinsky, Noel Brinkerhoff
To Learn More:
The Declining Influence of the United States Constitution (by David S. Law and Mila Versteeg, New York University Law Review)

United States Constitution Text 


Charles 10 years ago
The British Constitution is older than the U.S. Constitution, dating back to the last few decades of the 17th century. The U.S. Constitution wasn't adopted until 1789!
Georgia 12 years ago
less and less counrtires are modeling their constitutions after us because less and less countries are drafting constitutions for the right reasons so many nations today pay witness to revolutions with no end goal. people topple governments cause they are angry but dont have any plan for what to have as a new government once the fighting is over. by 1776 the american colonies had already formed a basic national governemnt ; the continetial congress; and the 13 colonies were drafting and adopting state constitutions before the fighting had even started. heck south carolina had already adopted a constituion, elected a president and declared its independence before jefferson was even selected to write the american decleration of independence. these modern revolutions like the arab spring, almost always lead to states of anarchy and chaos which then allows someone worse or if your lucky same as before to swoop in and steal power and the people agree to anything that promises order. this is how monsters like hitler rose to power and mark my words the arab spring will only lead to worse lives for the people of the middle east if they dont have new governments already in the works before they start revolutions. oh and to the rights comment we havnt amended the constitution that much because we havnt needed too thanks the supreme court and the amendments our arnt just those in black and white we have rigtht to speech, expression, thought, travel, life. the fact is americans probly have more rights then most other countries, maybe not the most rights but probly the most freedoms without infringing apon the liberty of others. just because less constitutions are being modeled after ours dosnt mean our constituion is obsolete if our constitution is the oldest written national constituion still in use then obviously we are doing something right, also the oldest witten constitution of any kind of government period still in use is the massachusets state constituion. lastly the gun comment, even though most people believe the 2nd amendment guarentees the peoples rights to guns the supreme court has never once ruled that so technically we dont have the right to guns only the states have the right to a armed militia but i do believe people should have a right to own guns because nearly every country where people not only lack the right to guns but are out right bared from owning a gun you see more infringment apon the civil liberties of people.
jwade 12 years ago
positive rights infringe on the rights of others and basically force people into servitude, like the right to healthcare forcing doctors to work for less than they normally do. the fact that it is difficult to amend is a great attribute of our constitution. if it was easy to change then why even bother having one. it would leave 49 percent of the people under the tyranny of the majority's whims of the moment. progressives always complain about how difficult it is yet they changed it 4 times in 8 years. these weaknesses seem like strengths to me.
anonymouse 12 years ago
maybe it's because people around the world see, more clearly than we do, the sorry state of our democracy and the erosion of our civil liberties -- not to mention our hypocrisy in contravening democracy and civil rights in iran (1953), guatemala (1954), vietnam (1963-), greece(1967), chile (1973), nicaragua ('80s), etc.
Right Coast 12 years ago
"offers relatively few enumerated rights...." what about the bill of rights?

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