Constitutional Handcuffs

54 Pages Posted: 22 Sep 2009 Last revised: 15 Sep 2017

See all articles by Richard Albert

Richard Albert

University of Texas at Austin - School of Law; Yale University - Law School; University of Toronto - Faculty of Law; University of Ottawa - Faculty of Law; Universidad Externado de Colombia - Facultad de Derecho; Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliyah - Radzyner School of Law; Universidad de Especialidades Espíritu Santo; Airlangga University

Date Written: February 10, 2010


To withhold from citizens the power of constitutional amendment is to withhold more than a mere procedural right. It is to hijack their most basic of all democratic rights. Nothing is more democratically objectionable than dispossessing citizens of the power to rewrite the charter governing the boundary separating the citizen from the state, and citizens from themselves. Sequestering this democratic right commandeers the sovereignty that gives democracy its meaning and throws away the key to unlock the handcuffs that constitutions fasten to the wrists of citizens.

With the enduring tension pitting constitutionalism versus democracy as my backdrop, I endeavor in this paper to make three contributions to the scholarly literature. First, I improve the theoretical foundations of constitutional entrenchment by defining the varying degrees of constitutional permanence. Second, I develop an original taxonomy of entrenchment clauses, beginning with what I call preservative entrenchment, transformational entrenchment and reconciliatory entrenchment. And, third, in reaching the conclusion that entrenchment undermines the participatory values that give constitutionalism its meaning, I propose an alternative to entrenchment that I call the entrenchment simulator. In contrast to entrenchment clauses that render constitutional amendments a constitutional impossibility, the entrenchment simulator provides a promising alternative that both embraces the expressive function of entrenchment and remains consistent with the promise of constitutionalism.

Keywords: Comparative Constitutional Law, Democratization, Entrenchment, Constitutional Amendment, Constitutionalism, Democracy, Participatory Democracy, Procedural Democracy, Substantive Democracy

Suggested Citation

Albert, Richard, Constitutional Handcuffs (February 10, 2010). 42 Arizona State Law Journal 663 (2010), Boston College Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 225, Available at SSRN:

Richard Albert (Contact Author)

University of Texas at Austin - School of Law ( email )

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Yale University - Law School

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University of Toronto - Faculty of Law ( email )

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University of Ottawa - Faculty of Law ( email )

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Universidad Externado de Colombia - Facultad de Derecho

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Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliyah - Radzyner School of Law ( email )

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Herzliya, 46150

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Universidad de Especialidades Espíritu Santo ( email )

Facultad de Derecho
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Samborondón, 092301

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Airlangga University

Dharmawangsa Dalam Selatan
Surabaya, East Java 60286

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