Transnational Constitutions

6th Annual Conference for Empirical Legal Studies Paper (2011)

Rational Choice and Constitutional Law Workshop Paper (2010)

CentER Discussion Paper Series No. 2013-010

39 International Review of Law and Economics 1 (2014); appeared under title "The Diffusion of Constitutional Rights"

37 Pages Posted: 14 Feb 2013 Last revised: 8 Feb 2015

Benedikt Goderis

The Netherlands Institute for Social Research|SCP

Mila Versteeg

University of Virginia School of Law

Date Written: April 1, 2013

Abstract

Constitutions are commonly regarded as uniquely national products, shaped by domestic ideals and politics. This paper develops and empirically tests a novel hypothesis, which is that constitutions are also shaped by transnational influence, or “diffusion.” Constitutional rights can diffuse through four mechanisms: coercion, competition, learning and acculturation. To test diffusion in the constitutional realm, we traced the historical documents of all post-WWII constitutions and documented the presence of 108 constitutional rights. Using a sample of these rights in 180 countries between 1948 and 2001, we estimate a spatial lag model to explain their adoption. Our results show that countries follow the choices of their former colonizer, countries with the same legal origin, the same religion, the same former colonizer, and the same aid donor. These transnational influences are strongest when a nation adopts its first constitution. At this time, no less than 46 percent of the variation in a bill of rights results from transnational influences.

Keywords: constitutions, diffusion, human rights, spatial econometrics

JEL Classification: K19, C21, O33

Suggested Citation

Goderis, Benedikt and Versteeg, Mila, Transnational Constitutions (April 1, 2013). 6th Annual Conference for Empirical Legal Studies Paper (2011); Rational Choice and Constitutional Law Workshop Paper (2010); CentER Discussion Paper Series No. 2013-010; 39 International Review of Law and Economics 1 (2014); appeared under title "The Diffusion of Constitutional Rights". Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2216582 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2216582

Benedikt Goderis (Contact Author)

The Netherlands Institute for Social Research|SCP ( email )

Rijnstraat 50
The Haag, 2515
Netherlands

Mila Versteeg

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

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