Democracy and Dysfunction: An Exchange

108 Pages Posted: 12 Aug 2016 Last revised: 20 Dec 2016

See all articles by Sanford Levinson

Sanford Levinson

University of Texas Law School

Jack M. Balkin

Yale University - Law School

Date Written: August 8, 2016


This essay, structured as a debate, discusses the current causes of political dysfunction in the United States.

Levinson argues that the causes of dysfunction can be traced to the Constitution itself. Remedying political dysfunction requires a new constitutional convention or a series of constitutional amendments, and Levinson explains why a program of constitutional reform is urgently required.

Balkin argues that the problem is best described as a problem of democratic representation, not dysfunction; it does not require either a constitutional amendment or a new constitutional convention. He argues that the federal government appears dysfunctional because the old Reagan regime is breaking down and we are in a transition to a new regime.

In a subsequent exchange, Levinson and Balkin reassess their arguments in light of the nomination and election of Donald Trump in 2016.

Keywords: Constitution, dysfunction, constitutional reform, 2016 Election, Donald Trump

JEL Classification: K10

Suggested Citation

Levinson, Sanford V. and Balkin, Jack M., Democracy and Dysfunction: An Exchange (August 8, 2016). Indiana Law Review, Vol. 50 (2017 Forthcoming), Yale Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 579, Available at SSRN:

Sanford V. Levinson

University of Texas Law School ( email )

727 East Dean Keeton Street
Austin, TX 78705
United States
512-471-3273 (Phone)

Jack M. Balkin (Contact Author)

Yale University - Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States
203-432-1620 (Phone)

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