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Is an unamendable constitution undemocratic? Show more Show less

Unamendability is a growing constitutional trend. But is it compatible with democratic values? Does unamendability force future generations into a necrocracy, the ‘dead hand’ grip of those that wrote the constitution? Does it place too much power in the hands of the judiciary? Can institutions face modern democratic challenges without the flexibility to amend the nation's constitution?

Yes, an unamendable constitution is undemocratic Show more Show less

A constitution is supposed to reflect the values of a society at a given time. An unamendable constitution binds future generations to past values, thereby reducing their democratic influence.
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Generates apathy

Reducing constituents' democratic powers generates apathy and reduced democratic participation.
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Context

Having aspects of a societies’ legislative and social values of limits generates apathy among the electorate and leads to decreased democratic participation.

The Argument

If citizens cannot modify and amend any and all of society’s principal values as they see fit, there is a reduced incentive to participate in the democratic process. Healthy public debate is replaced by apathy and indifference and society becomes democratically and intellectually impoverished. [1]

Counter arguments

This generally isn’t true. The mere fact that some constitutional elements are unamendable makes them the target of intense public debate. The fact that all Americans are guaranteed the right to bear arms is guaranteed in its unamendable constitution (the extent to which the US Constitution is unamendable is contentious yet beyond the scope of this question) has not meant that discussions surrounding gun rights have vanished and the population has become indifferent. The opposite has occurred. Public debate intensifies and the constitutional element becomes a focal point. [1]

Framing

Premises

[P1] Populations become less democratically engaged when they have limited control over legislation. [P2] Unamendable constitutions reduce voters' control over legislation. [P3] Therefore, unamendable constitutions reduced democratic participation and are not compatible with free democracies.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P2] Unamendable provisions in constitutions become the focal point of democratic debate, not a source of apathy.

Proponents

Further Reading

References

  1. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/327400015_Necrocracy_or_Democracy_Assessing_Objections_to_Constitutional_Unamendability_Unamendability_in_Constitutional_Democracies

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This page was last edited on Tuesday, 21 Jan 2020 at 16:31 UTC