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Constitutional Handcuffs

By Richard Albert

Abstract

To withhold from citizens the power of constitutional amendment is to withhold more than a mere procedural right. It is to hijack their most basic of all democratic rights. Nothing is more democratically objectionable than dispossessing citizens of the power to rewrite the charter governing the boundary separating the citizen from the state, and citizens from themselves. Sequestering this democratic right commandeers the sovereignty that gives democracy its meaning and throws away the key to unlock the handcuffs that constitutions fasten to the wrists of citizens. With the enduring tension pitting constitutionalism versus democracy as my backdrop, I endeavor in this paper to make three contributions to the scholarly literature. First, I improve the theoretical foundations of constitutional entrenchment by unveiling a new theory to understand the varying degrees of constitutional permanence. Second, I develop an original taxonomy of entrenchment clauses, beginning with what I call preservative entrenchment, transformational entrenchment and reconciliatory entrenchment. And, third, in reaching the conclusion that entrenchment undermines the participatory values that give constitutionalism its meaning, I propose an alternative to entrenchment that I call the entrenchment escalator. In contrast to entrenchment clauses that render constitutional amendments a constitutional impossibility, the entrenchment escalator provides a promising alternative that both embraces the expressive function of entrenchment and remains consistent with the promise of constitutionalism

Topics: Comparative Constitutional Law, Law
Publisher: Digital Commons @ Boston College Law School
Year: 2010
OAI identifier: oai:lawdigitalcommons.bc.edu:lsfp-1509
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