Public Choice and Constitutional Design

42 Pages Posted: 29 Jan 2009

See all articles by Tom Ginsburg

Tom Ginsburg

University of Chicago Law School

Date Written: January 28, 2009


This chapter reviews the literature on public choice theory and constitutional design, focusing in particular on the sub-discipline of constitutional political economy. The basic framework of constitutional political economy has been in place for several decades and has produced some important insights into particular institutions. Other institutions, however, have been ignored, and there is a relatively small amount of empirical work testing the propositions. The chapter summarizes the work to date and identifies areas for more attention in the future. The chapter first reviews the core assumption that constitutional politics are really different than ordinary politics, and the corollary that the constitutional level is more likely to produce public-regarding behavior. It finds these assumptions to be less than fully convincing, in part because constitutional endurance seems to require some level of interest group behavior, and because constitutions can be transformed through amendment.

Suggested Citation

Ginsburg, Tom, Public Choice and Constitutional Design (January 28, 2009). U of Chicago Law & Economics, Olin Working Paper No. 451, Elgar Handbook in Public Choice and Public Law, 2009, Center on Law and Globalization Research, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Tom Ginsburg (Contact Author)

University of Chicago Law School ( email )

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