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The Scourge of Juristocracy

May 3, 2010

James Grant in The Wilson Quarterly:

The United States may not be the world’s indispensable nation, as its secretary of state famously claimed a dozen years ago, but it has certainly been the indispensable inspiration in the global spread of democracy. The irony is that while this has not led to a great deal of imitation of American institutions such as the presidency, the single most widely replicated feature of the American political system is also its most undemocratic one.

Since the end of World War II, there has been a worldwide convergence toward U.S.-style judicial supremacy—or what some observers now call “juristocracy.” In both long-established and new democracies, as Ran Hirschl shows in his excellent book Towards Juristocracy (2004), constitutional reforms have taken political power away from elected politicians and shifted it to unelected judges. When democracies were established in Southern Europe in the 1970s, in Latin America in the 1980s, and in Central and Eastern Europe and South Africa in the 1990s, they almost all included a strong judiciary and a bill of rights. [More]

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