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What are the merits and/or limits of the 'broad' versus 'detailed' Constitution?

The U.S. has a loosely drafted Constitution, relatively speaking, yet it has still come to have the holy-text status Madison and Jefferson both feared it would have. This suggests that any constitution is going to be taken very literally as an unchanging code of law, no matter what the protestations of its authors. So maybe it should be specific after all.

The EU constitution itself doesn't seem that radical given the fact that most of the things it guarantees are already provided by the member Countries. The increased detail strikes me as mostly the influence of the European code system (as opposed to our common law system) that generally prefers detail and clarity to ambigiuty and judicial review.

Along the same lines, if you think about our Constitution as not just the words on the page but also the 200+ years of accumulated Supreme court and lower court precedent, ours is infinitely more detailed and complex than theirs. If you have ever glanced through an annonated version of the U.S. consitution (typically about the same size as an encyclopedia) you'll know what I mean.

 

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