Constitutions around the World: A View from Latin America

Discussion Papers


by Jose Luis CORDEIRO

July 2008


This paper gives a global summary of the number of constitutions and the number of articles in each constitution for many representative countries around the world. Several works have already been written comparing different legal systems and different constitutional traditions around the world; the purpose of this paper is just to compare the numbers of constitutions and articles in the diverse regions of the world, namely: North America, Latin America, Europe, Oceania, Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Around the world, on average, Latin America has had the most convoluted constitutional history. The Dominican Republic has had a total of 32 constitutions, the largest number of constitutions of any country, since its independence in 1844. Three other countries have also had 20 or more constitutions throughout their history, all of them in Latin America: Venezuela (26), Haiti (24) and Ecuador (20). On the other hand, there are economies and societies that do not even have codified constitutions, like the United Kingdom in Europe, Hong Kong in Asia and New Zealand in Oceania. The United States has had only one constitution, even if it has been amended several times. There are also the special cases of Israel and Saudi Arabia, both in the Middle East, that do not have official written constitutions for historical and religious reasons. Comparative constitutional numbers and history help explain several things about the stability of political systems, but not necessarily about their quality.

Keywords: constitutions, law and economics, Latin America
JEL classification: K00, K10, K40

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