You Don’t Always Get What You’d Expect - On Some Unexpected Effects of Constitutional Emergency Provisions

42 Pages Posted: 18 Jun 2018 Last revised: 9 Jun 2020

See all articles by Christian Bjørnskov

Christian Bjørnskov

Aarhus University - Department of Economics and Business; Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN); Center for Political Studies; Institute for Corruption Studies

Stefan Voigt

University of Hamburg - Institute of Law & Economics; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Date Written: June 3, 2018

Abstract

9 out of 10 constitutions contain explicit emergency provisions, intended to help governments cope with extraordinary events that endanger many people or the existence of the state. We ask two questions: (1) does the constitutionalization of emergency provisions help governments to cope with disasters and other extraordinary events? (2) What particular parts of emergency constitutions fare best? We find that the more advantages emergency constitutions confer to the executive, the higher the number of people killed as a consequence of a natural disaster, controlling for its severity. As this is an unexpected result, we discuss a number of potential explanations, the most plausible being that governments use natural disasters as a pretext to enhance their power. Furthermore, the easier it is to call a state of emergency, the larger the negative effects on basic human rights. Interestingly, presidential democracies are better able to cope with natural disasters than parliamentary ones in terms of lives saved, whereas autocracies do significantly worse in the sense that empowerment rights seriously suffer in the aftermath of a disaster.

Keywords: constitutional emergency provisions, state of emergency, état de siege, regime transformation, positive constitutional economics

JEL Classification: K40, Z13

Suggested Citation

Bjørnskov, Christian and Voigt, Stefan, You Don’t Always Get What You’d Expect - On Some Unexpected Effects of Constitutional Emergency Provisions (June 3, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3189749 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3189749

Christian Bjørnskov (Contact Author)

Aarhus University - Department of Economics and Business ( email )

Fuglesangs Allé 4
Aarhus V, DK-8210
Denmark

Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN) ( email )

Box 55665
Grevgatan 34, 2nd floor
Stockholm, SE-102 15
Sweden

Center for Political Studies

Landgreven 3
Copenhagen K, DK-1301
Denmark

Institute for Corruption Studies

Stevenson Hall 425
Normal, IL 61790-4200
United States

Stefan Voigt

University of Hamburg - Institute of Law & Economics ( email )

Johnsallee 35
Hamburg, 20148
Germany
+49-40-428385782 (Phone)
+49-40-428386794 (Fax)

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

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