Lessons from Constitutional Culture and the History of Constitutional Transfer: A Hope for Constitutionally Limited Government?

  • Nikolai G. WenzelEmail author


The literature shows a clear correlation between sound constitutional environments and human flourishing. However, the path to adoption of sound constitutions is much less clear. This paper turns to the history of constitutional transfer to propose an alternative to taxonomies offered in the literature, which typically classify constitutions either by governmental structure (presidential v. parliamentary, or centralized v. federalist) or by source of influence (e.g. US 1787, Spain 1812, France 1958). These classifications are found wanting; instead, this paper proposes a new taxonomy based on the origin of the constitutional ideas and adoption. Formal constitutional parchment must match informal constitutional culture, so a constitution’s likelihood of success is greatest when the ideas are indigenous; the source of adoption is ultimately secondary. The paper closes with four case studies of constitutional transfer and adoption.


Constitutional transfer Constitutional success Japan Philippines Argentina Mexico 

JEL Classification

B52 B53 P48 Z13 



For review and insights, the author thanks Richard Wagner, Peter Boettke, Don Boudreaux, Dragos Aligica, Anthony Evans, and an anonymous referee. Research support from the H.B. Earhart Foundation is gratefully acknowledged. The usual disclaimer applies.


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Copyright information

© International Atlantic Economic Society 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Economics and FinanceFlorida Gulf Coast UniversityFort MyersUSA

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