Can the Constitution of a Fruit Fly Be Written?

21 Pages Posted: 24 Jul 2020

See all articles by Grégoire Webber

Grégoire Webber

Queen's University - Faculty of Law; London School of Economics - Law Department

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Date Written: June 25, 2020


This essay, written for ‘From morality to law and back again: Liber amicorum for John Gardner’ (Michelle Dempsey and François Tanguay-Renaud, eds.), is in conversation with the late John Gardner's ‘Can there be a written constitution?’. It interrogates Gardner's strategy of answering his title question by reference to HLA Hart's secondary rules and suggests that, by doing so, certain aspects of a constitution are closed off from consideration or obscured from view. Among those is whether a constitution constitutes a legal system or, more broadly, a state or government; whether Hart's secondary rules can account for the executive function of government; and whether rights requiring legislative action can be explained in the frame of secondary rules. The essay concludes by suggesting that, without holding in view a more complete picture of a constitution, Gardner's title question may ask the wrong question in a manner analogous to one who asks if the constitution of a fruit fly can be written.

Suggested Citation

Webber, Grégoire, Can the Constitution of a Fruit Fly Be Written? (June 25, 2020). LSE Legal Studies Working Paper No. 10/2020, Available at SSRN: or

Grégoire Webber (Contact Author)

Queen's University - Faculty of Law ( email )

Macdonald Hall
Kingston, Ontario K7L3N6


London School of Economics - Law Department ( email )

Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom


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