Most democratic constitutions fail to endure. The estimated half-life of a democratic constitution adopted between 1789 and 2005 is just sixteen years (Elkins, Ginsburg and Melton 2009:135). The purpose of this paper is to explore some of the conditions that support constitutional and democratic survival. For democracy to survive, it must be self-enforcing in the sense that all parties with the power to disrupt democracy – such as an incumbent who may refuse to honor an electoral defeat or another group who might use force to take power – choose not to do so, instead honoring the rules (Przeworski 2006, Mittal and Weingast, 2010).
Barry R. Weingast is the Ward C. Krebs Family Professor, Department of Political Science, and a Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution. He served as Chair, Department of Political Science, from 1996 through 2001. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 1996. Weingast’s research focuses on the political foundation of markets, economic reform, and regulation. He has written extensively on problems of political economy of development, federalism and decentralization, legal institutions and the rule of law, and democracy. Weingast is co-author of Violence and Social Orders: A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History (with Douglass C. North and John Joseph Wallis, 2009, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) and Analytic Narratives (1998, Princeton). He edited (with Donald Wittman) The Oxford Handbook of Political Economy (Oxford University Press, 2006). Weingast has won numerous awards, including the William H. Riker Prize, the Heinz Eulau Prize (with Ken Shepsle), the Franklin L. Burdette Pi Sigma Alpha Award (with Kenneth Schultz), and the James L. Barr Memorial Prize in Public Economics.