Democratization and Countermajoritarian Institutions: The Role of Power and Constitutional Design in Self-Enforcing Democracy
Ginsburg, Comparative Constitutional Design. Cambridge University Press, 2012.
49 Pages Posted: 26 Jan 2015
Date Written: 2012
Most democratic constitutions fail. The estimated half-life of a democratic constitution adopted between 1789 and 2005 is just sixteen years. This paper explores the conditions that foster constitutional and democratic survival. For democracy to survive, it must be self-enforcing in the sense that all parties with the power to disrupt democracy – such as an incumbent who may refuse to honor an electoral defeat or another group who might use force to take power – have incentives not to do so, instead honoring the rules. Our model shows that successful democratization and subsequent constitutional stability require incentives for both pro-authoritarian and pro-democratic groups to adhere to the constitutional bargain once the new constitution is in place. Sustaining democracy involves the reciprocal ability to impose costs on the other group for deviating from the constitutional bargain. Many successful cases of democratization involved specific types of countermajoritarian features that constrain the power of elected majorities; for example, malapportionment may benefit the old, authoritarian elite; an upper chamber may represent geographic units; or other forms of veto power over majorities. The purpose of these countermajoritarian features is to protect the interest of various groups participating in the democratization bargain so that they are better off under the bargain than defecting from it.
Keywords: democracy, self-enforcing democracy, constitutions, political institutions
JEL Classification: H11, K10, N40, P16
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation