¤480,000 for Research Project on Developing Constitutions

Photo: UHH/Röttger Jerg Gutmann
Photo: UHH/Röttger Jerg Gutmann
To what extent does the process of creating a constitution influence its content and a population’s adherence and acceptance? Now an international research team from Universität Hamburg and Warsaw are attempting to answer these questions. The German Research Foundation and the National Science Center of Poland are funding the 3-year project with €480,000. The project is set to begin in 2024.

The success of a national constitution depends on, among other things, its longevity and whether or not its rules are followed. In their new research project, Spielt Verfassungsgebung eine Rolle? Die Ökonomik des Verfassens von Gesellschaftsverträgen, researchers will now look at how the conditions in which a constitution is created impact its success.

To do so, they will gather and statistically evaluate historical data to analyze the procedures used to develop constitutions the world over in the past several decades. They will also conduct surveys and behavioral experiments to determine the acceptance of these constitutions today. This will allow researchers to understand how the procedures in which constitutional laws are created impact the legitimacy of the resulting rules.

Chile is an example of the significance of procedural rules involved in creating a constitution. Following social unrest, a democratic constitutional process was initiated in 2019 to replace the previous constitution from the Pinochet era. In 2022, however, the first constitutional draft was rejected by over 60 percent of voters. On 17 December 2023, there will be another opportunity to see if the constitutional congress has managed to produce a constitution, using new procedural rules and with a markedly more conservative political orientation, that the majority of the population can agree to.

The team includes Jerg Gutmann, junior professor at the Institute of Law and Economics as well as project head at Universität Hamburg; Stefan Voigt, director of the Institute of Law and Ecomomics at Universität Hamburg; and Katarzyna Metelsk-Szaniawska and her research group from the University of Warsaw.

-We are delighted about the funding for our German-Polish cooperation. This will enable us to newly illuminate the topic of constitution-making with modern empirical methods,- says Prof. Gutmann. The team is especially excited about the topic’s relevance: -Today we see that the constitutional state, even in Europe and the United States, must continuously be defended. A constitution that effectively limits political activity and that is still respected by citizens is essential.- When creating a new constitution, Gutmann continues, there is a great deal at risk and -we expect at the end of our project a significantly better understanding of which rules promise the greatest success for the creation of a constitution.