Disadvantages of a Written Constitution
A constitution is a set of principles that are used in governing a country or an organization. Constitutions can either be written down and codified in a particular document or unwritten. A written constitution is usually entrenched in a particular document and is referred to for guidance in particular situations.
Written constitutions are also called codified constitutions and are highly popular across most countries in the world. The US and most commonwealth countries have a written constitution. The same applies to countries in the European Union.
On the other hand unwritten constitutions are also known as uncodified constitutions. They are basically derived from written or unwritten sources but are not documented. Such constitutions are based on practice or precedent actions as opposed to drafted documents.
As of 2013, New Zealand and the United Kingdom were the only countries with unwritten constitutions. Additionally, there are countries such as Australia which have both codified and uncodified laws as part of the constitution.
Even though a written constitution may offer concrete provisions that can act as apt directions during crisis, it has its own disadvantages that have made it less popular in certain countries. Some of the major disadvantages of a written constitution include:
- Cast in stone. Many experts view written constitutions as rigid documents which are deeply entrenched in the governing system of a country. This makes it difficult to include new aspects in the constitution.
- Difficult to change. A written constitution tends to be rigid and since it is deeply entrenched it is difficult to change. In order to change a written constitution there are processes such as referendums and votes that have to be cast depending on what is stipulated in the constitution. The process of changing a written constitution also takes a long time and can be very costly for the involved governments. Additionally, it can spark a lot of debate making it an arduous and insurmountable task.
- Outdated aspects. Since written constitutions are often drafted at a particular time, they cannot capture all elements. This renders some of the clauses inapplicable with time. It can be difficult to use the constitution to guide a government in interpreting certain problems which may not have been included in the constitution at the time it was being written. Some of the laws included in a constitution may be outdated and illegal hence cannot be implemented. This makes it challenging to implement the constitution in its totality without making relevant amendments.
- Subject to misinterpretation. All written constitutions are subject to interpretation. This makes them a touchy affair considering the fact that different courts and benches of judges might take different approaches in interpreting the constitution. Interpretation can elicit divergent views and also cause confusion especially where there are ambiguous clauses in the constitution.
Ultimately, written constitutions can be very advantageous in terms of offering direction to a government. However, this will depend on how they are written and the room given for amendments in order to capture evolving issues that affect a country.
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