This article introduces a novel dataset focused on compliance with national constitutions. The proposed indicators combine data on de jure constitutional rules with data on their de facto implementation to produce de jure-de facto gap measures for 13 constitutional rights in the following four areas: property rights and the rule of law, political rights, civil rights, and basic human rights, as well as an overall indicator of constitutional compliance. The dataset covers 178 countries over the period 1900-2018 and can be useful for researchers interested in studying the determinants and effects of (non)compliance with constitutions – topics that have received increasing attention in recent constitutional economics scholarship.
It is often argued that governments take advantage of extreme events to expand their power to the detriment of the political opposition and citizens at large. Violations of constitutional constraints are a clear indication of such opportunistic behavior. We study whether natural disasters, conflicts, and other extreme events systematically diminish governments’ compliance with constitutional constraints. Our results indicate that governments are most likely to overstep their competences or disregard their responsibilities during civil conflicts and successful coups d’état. Interestingly, Cold War interventions by the United States that installed or supported a political leader led to a decrease in constitutional compliance in the target country, whereas Soviet interventions had no such effect. In contrast, banking crises and natural disasters, which threaten societies at large, but not necessarily the political elite, do not cause a significant decline in constitutional compliance.
The relevance of the quality of legal system for economic and social progress has been widely recognized. However, the functioning of the judiciary, and judicial independence in particular, has been repeatedly questioned. Most of the literature does it on grounds of undue external influences. In this study we adopt a different focus and analyze a potential abuse of judicial independence inside the judiciary. The example comes from the Constitutional Tribunal of the Republic of Poland in the period 2011-2014. Using various statistical tools, we check whether assigning judges to panels is consistent with the alphabetical rule that should govern judges’ appointment to cases. Our findings show that the rule was fully obeyed only rarely. We test several potential explanations that may account for that. The collected evidence suggests that the disruptions to the alphabetical order were not driven by any single factor.
In this paper we study the relationship between degree of political conflict, as well as political polarization, within a state and compliance with the country's constitution. While the economic approach to constitutions highlights their role in resolving conflict, recent work on the de jure – de facto distinction in relation to various constitutional rules suggests that political conflict could play a role in explaining the size and evolution of the gap between constitutional text and constitutional practice. We aim to provide a more in-depth analysis of these complex relationships both in the theoretical and empirical dimension. The conclusions of our study shed more light on the recent constitutional crises in several countries.