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A Long Constitution is a (Positively) Bad Constitution: Evidence from OECD Countries

  • George Tsebelis and Dominic J. Nardi
  • Please note a correction has been issued for this article.
Abstract

This article starts with two empirical observations from Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries about longer constitutions: (1) they are more rigid (that is, more difficult to amend) and (2) they are in practice more frequently amended. The study presents models of the frequently adopted rules for constitutional revision (for example, qualified majorities in one or two chambers, referendums) and demonstrates that, if longer constitutions are more frequently revised, it is because they must impose actual harm on overwhelming majorities. In trying to explain this finding, the article demonstrates that longer constitutions tend to contain more substantive restrictions. Countries with longer constitutions also tend to have lower levels of GDP per capita and higher corruption. Finally, the negative effect of constitutional length on GDP per capita is shown to persist even if corruption is controlled for.

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Anatol Rapoport Collegiate Professor and Ph.D. Candidate, respectively, Department of Political Science, University of Michigan (emails: tsebelis@umich.edu, dnardi@umich.edu). We would like to thank Nikos Alivizatos, Shaun Bowler, Jean Clipperton, Elias Dinas, Simon Hix, Hannu Nurmi, Johanes Pollak, Bjorn Eric Rasch, Fritz Scharpf, Tom Schwartz, Jonathan Slapin, Daniel Treisman and Vassilis Tzevelekos for many interesting discussions, as well as three anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful comments. Data replication sets and online appendices are available at http://dx.doi.org/doi: 10.1017/S0007123414000441.

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British Journal of Political Science
  • ISSN: 0007-1234
  • EISSN: 1469-2112
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-political-science
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