We The People: Declining Global Appeal of U.S. Constitution

Guest Host:

Rebecca Roberts
We The People: Declining Global Appeal of U.S. Constitution

Legal scholars Mila Versteeg and David Law compared more than 700 constitutions drafted after World War II. They say the U.S. Constitution is losing appeal abroad...

Over the last two centuries, countries around the world have drawn inspiration from the U.S. Constitution. But new research indicates that the international influence of our founding document is on the decline. In fact, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms may be the new go-to template for global governance. We explore the evolution of constitutional governments worldwide.

Guests

David Law

Professor of Law and Professor of Political Science, Washington University in St. Louis

Mila Versteeg

Associate Professor of Law, University of Virginia School of Law

Related Links

Comparing Constitutions

In "The Declining Influence of the United States Constitution" (NYU Law Review, Forthcoming June 2012), David Law and Mila Versteeg explore the evolution of constitutions around the world over the last sixty years. Using a unique coding methodology, the authors were able to compare 729 constitutions from 188 countries. They find that that U.S. Constitution, which was first drafted in 1787, is increasingly far from the global mainstream. Meanwhile, the constitutions of Canada, South Africa and Germany are much closer to global norms.

Kojo interviewed South African Supreme Court Justice Albie Sachs in 2007. He discussed the differences between the South African and American Constitutions.

An Index of Global Constitutional Rights
Law and Versteeg list the most and least popular rights over the last sixty years.

Most Popular Rights Over Time: (percentage of constitutions featuring listed rights)

Rank Type of Provision 1946 1956 1966 1976 1986 1996 2006
1 Freedom of religion 81% 88% 87% 88% 92% 95% 97%
2 Freedom of the press and/or expression 87 88 84 86 87 95 97
3 Equality guarantee 71 77 85 88 92 95 97
4 Right to private Property 81 85 81 83 87 95 97
5 Right to privacy 83 83 78 81 83 94 95
6 Prohibition of arbitrary arrest and detention 76 81 81 79 81 92 94
7 Right of assembly 73 77 73 75 81 90 94
8 Right of association 72 74 78 77 80 91 93
9 Women’s rights 35 51 62 70 77 90 91
10 Freedom of Movement 50 55 58 58 64 84 88
11 Right of access to Court 68 68 64 62 64 85 86
12 Prohibition of torture 37 37 41 45 56 80 84
13 Right to vote 63 74 73 69 74 82 84
14 Right to work 55 65 59 67 65 80 82
15 Education rightpositive 65 72 59 65 65 78 82
16 Judicial review 25 32 53 51 58 80 82
17 Prohibition of ex post facto laws 41 51 57 60 67 77 80
18 Physical needs rights 44 60 52 57 61 75 79
19 Right to life 33 33 38 41 51 71 78
20 Presumption of Innocence 8 12 31 37 49 69 74

Least Popular Rights Over Time

Rank Type of Provision 1946 1956 1966 1976 1986 1996 2006
1 Right to bear arms 10% 8% 5% 4% 3% 3% 2%
2 Protection of fetuses 0 0 1 1 6 7 8
3 Rights for victims of crimes 0 0 0 0 1 7 10
4 Prohibition of genocide/crimes against humanity 0 0 0 1 2 6 12
5 Substantive principles for education 11 16 10 15 15 14 14
6 Right to resist when rights are violated 8 7 4 4 4 15 16
7 Consumer rights 0 0 0 1 6 12 16
8 Prisoner rights 10 12 9 12 10 15 18
9 Official state religion 39 39 32 27 26 24 22
10 Prohibition of death penalty 10 9 8 9 12 20 24
11 Right to appeal to higher court 8 8 7 7 8 20 25
12 Natural resources for benefit of all 8 7 8 15 19 27 29
13 Affirmative action 3 9 17 20 26 27 30
14 Right to protection of one’s reputation or honor 13 11 8 10 17 29 32
15 Separation of church and state 20 25 28 25 25 36 34
16 Right to information about government 2 4 3 5 8 25 34
17 Rights for elderly 3 3 3 7 12 26 34
18 Reference to international human rights treaties 0 1 18 17 15 30 35
19 Right to asylum 11 21 18 21 21 32 35
20 Right to marry 18 31 30 28 26 32 35

* Data from "The Declining Influence of the United States Constitution" (NYU Law Review, June 2012)

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