I would not look to the United States Constitution if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012.
If you were drafting a new constitution (as they’re doing in Libya and Egypt), what would you do?
For starters, you might start with some considerations on drafting a constitution from this interview (in The Christian Science Monitor) with Andrew Reynolds, a noted constitutional engineer.
In the past, I’ve given my POL 102 classes (and also my upper-division democratization seminars) an assignment that asked them to draw up a new constitution for Oz. I handed out a packet of a post-transition (after the Wizard is deposed) Oz, a description of the country’s current political situation (mostly based on Gregory Maguire’s Wicked), and asked them to write a brief outline for a new constitutional system looking at three basic components:
These are group projects of 4-5 students, who write a two-page paper and give a short in-class presentation “pitching” their constitutional framework. Essentially, I ask them to become “constitutional engineers” for a day.
This year, thanks to the Arab Spring, we can use real world cases. So today my students are presenting sketches of the kind of constitutional system they think is best for a new democratic Libya. I’m very intrigued to see what they come up with.
If you don’t think political scientists really do this kins of “hands-on” activity, here’s a short article from The Christian Science Monitor interviewing UNC’s Andrew Reynolds about his advice for post-transition constitutions for the Arab Spring countries. The issue isn’t just academic for Reynolds (one of the discipline’s premier constitutional engineers): He’s currently in Libya for this very purpose, having only recently left Tunisia.