Honors Capstone Project
Date of Submission
Professor Rogan T. Kersh
Professor James P. Bennett
Citizenship and Public Affairs
Capstone Prize Winner
Won Capstone Funding
American Politics | Comparative Politics | Political Science
It is difficult to imagine the concept of constitutionalism without the notion of deliberative democracy. Historically, written constitutions are the capstone of the ages-long struggle to limit arbitrary governmental action. James Madison said, “In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government.”
We live in an era of constitution making. There are close to 200 national constitutions in existence today, and more than half have been written or re-written in the last quarter century. New nations and radically new regimes, seeking the democratic credentials that are often a condition for recognition by other nations and by international political, financial, aid, and trade organizations, make writing a constitution a priority.
In 1787, the new United States of America was the originator and model of traditional constitution making by a hand-picked elite group, and of the constitution as marking a settlement of conflict and inaugurating a new regime of powers and rights. Mainstream scholarship has generally presented the American Constitution as the fixed outcome of a period of nation building. Admirers, offering this as an example to others, tend to want to duplicate its perceived virtues: constitution-making as an act of completion, the constitution as a final settlement or social contract in which basic political definitions, principles, and processes are agreed, as is a commitment to abide by them.
Europeans have recently adopted a constitution for the European Union that is very different from the U.S. Constitution. The creation of a document which solidifies 25 countries as a political body has enormous ramifications for democracy across all civilizations. On the face of it, the proposed European Union constitution imitates the American federalist form. As I intend to show, its specific provisions move in an entirely different direction. The influences, by which the United States and the European Union have developed their constitutions, and therefore their democracies, are complex, but integral to understanding the political foundations on which these two polities rest.
The purpose of this thesis is to analyze the differences and similarities between the two political bodies and constitutions, discover what, if any, rights are given to citizens, how identity (or lack thereof) of citizens affects the policies and progression of a political unit, and to better identify the responsibility of politicians within these communities. I will explore the historical examples of successful and unsuccessful governments, what a democratically influenced constitution should look like, and what future steps the European Union and United States should take to cement these ideals into their unions.
Tweed, Rebecca, "What is Constitutional Democracy? A Comparative Analysis Between The United States and The European Union" (2005). Syracuse University Honors Program Capstone Projects. 687.
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