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Robert G. Moser, Chair BAT 2.116, Mailcode A1800, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-5121

Spring 2010

GOV 384N • Comparative Constitutional Design

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
39045 W
3:30 PM-5:30 PM
TNH 3.115

Course Description

"Constitutional design" is a growth industry these days, especially since 1989 and the breakdown of the USSR. There is also, of course, the example of Iraq. This course will examine a variety of questions facing anyone engaging in the enterprise of designing a constitution. One question, of course, is whether any specific answers will be so context specific, depending on the culture and political situation of a particular country, that there are no useful generalities that could possibly learned about such stock issues as, for example, electoral systems; parliamentarianism v. presidentialism; bicameralism v. unicameralism within the legislative branch; authorizing presidential vetoes (and whether such vetoes such be overridable and, if so, with what percentage of votes in the legislature); structuring the judiciary; allowing the "suspension" of the Constitution during times of "emergency"; and amending the constitution itself. There are also questions surrounding the method of selecting those entrusted with designing a constitution and then what process of ratification, if any, will monitor the designers' handiwork. Although we will certainly look at the United States Constitution along the way, the course will necessarily be comparative, looking a constitutions, both existing and defunct, around the world. The assignments will be drawn primarily from books and articles written by political scientists (in part because legal academics, fixated as they/we are on the "litigated constitution," have strikingly little that is useful to say about the issues that are the core of this course.

Grading Policy

Students will write a set of response papers as well as a seminar paper, the topic of which to be arranged with the professors.


Tom Ginsburg, Judicial Review in New Democracies (Cambridge, 2003). Sanford Levinson, ed. Responding to Imperfection: Theory and Practice of Constitutional Amendment (Princeton, 1995). Ray Moore and Donald Robinson, Partners for Democracy (Oxford, 2005). Cindy Skach, Borrowing Constitutional Designs: Constitutional Law in Weimar Germany and the French Fifth Republic (Princeton, 2005)


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