The Undead Constitution

Steven Menashi

New York University School of Law


Policy Review, No. 157, pp. 76-82, October-November 2009

Most living constitutionalists prefer to retain the original constitutional text but infuse it with modern-day ideals. So living constitutionalists aim to establish not a "living" but a zombie Constitution; they want to take the corpse of constitutional text and reanimate it with new principles in every generation. But this Constitution is at war with itself. Like Frankenstein’s monster, half dead and half alive, it wanders in the wilderness never finding complete acceptance. Call this "the undead hand problem": The living Constitution is always an unstable mix of living and dead elements, chosen according to the preferences of the assembler.

A review of Cass R. Sunstein, A Constitution of Many Minds: Why the Founding Document Doesn't Mean What It Meant Before (Princeton, 2009).

Number of Pages in PDF File: 8

Keywords: living constitution, originalism, condorcet, dead hand problem

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Date posted: March 15, 2010 ; Last revised: August 15, 2014

Suggested Citation

Menashi, Steven, The Undead Constitution (2009). Policy Review, No. 157, pp. 76-82, October-November 2009 . Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1567820

Contact Information

Steven Menashi (Contact Author)
New York University School of Law ( email )
40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States
202-596-7375 (Phone)
202-315-3462 (Fax)
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