Alternatives to Liberal Constitutional Democracy

24 Pages Posted: 19 Dec 2017 Last revised: 26 Oct 2018

See all articles by David S. Law

David S. Law

University of Virginia School of Law; The University of Hong Kong - Faculty of Law

Date Written: December 13, 2017


The global appeal of liberal constitutional democracy—defined as a competitive multiparty system combined with governance within constitutional limits—cannot be taken for granted due to the existence of competing forms of government that appear successful along a number of practical dimensions and consequently enjoy high levels of public acceptance. Proponents of liberal constitutional democracy must be prepared to proactively explain and defend its capacity to satisfy first-order political needs. A system of government is unlikely to command popular acceptance unless it can plausibly claim to address the problems of oppression, tribalism, and physical and economic security.

Along these dimensions, the advantages of liberal constitutional democracy over the alternatives of social democracy of the type seen in Scandinavia, and bureaucratic authoritarianism of the type seen in parts of Asia, are not self-evident. Within Asia alone, seemingly functional alternatives to liberal constitutional democracy run the gamut from illiberal nondemocracy in China, to liberal one-party rule in Japan, to illiberal constitutional democracy in Singapore, to liberal constitutional nondemocracy in Hong Kong, to hereditary monarchy in Bhutan.

Keywords: constitutional law, constitutions, constitutional democracy, liberal, liberal democracy, authoritarianism, bureaucratic authoritarianism, authoritarian constitution, Asia, China, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Bhutan, Scandinavia, citizenship

JEL Classification: n45, p37, p17, p27

Suggested Citation

Law, David S., Alternatives to Liberal Constitutional Democracy (December 13, 2017). 77 Maryland Law Review 223 (2017), Washington University in St. Louis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 17-10-02, University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 2018/004, Available at SSRN:

David S. Law (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

The University of Hong Kong - Faculty of Law ( email )

Pokfulam Road
Hong Kong, Hong Kong


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