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The Optimal Design of a Constitution-making Process

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Elster Jon

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Collège de France
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The Optimal Design of a Constitution-making Process

La sagesse collective : principes et mécanismes

Colloque des 22-23 mai 2008, organisé par l'Institut du Monde Contemporain du Collège de France, sous la direction du Professeur Jon Elster.

Intervention de Jon Elster.
There are two normative questions one might ask about constitutions: What is a good constitution? What is a good constitution-making process? In the paper I mainly focus on the second issue, but also discuss the relation between the two. Important desiderata of a constituent assembly include having a number of delegates that is both large enough to prevent bargaining and small enough to allow for a genuine exchange of views; a mode of election of delegates that will generate sufficient diversity both of preferences and of information; a focus on issues on which interest has a minimal purchase; and an organization of the proceedings that minimizes the scope of passion. I also argue that the process ought to hourglass-shaped, with wide public deliberation before the assembly meets and deliberation followed by a referendum after it has produced its proposal.



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