Economic Structure and Constitutional Structure: An Intellectual History

Essay - Volume 94 - Issue 7

Ganesh Sitaraman views the problem through the widest angle historical lens. Drawing on a book manuscript in progress, he argues that constitutional thinkers, beginning in ancient Greece and Rome, have understood that there was a necessary, important relationship between constitutional design and the distribution of wealth. He argues that the old way of managing this relationship was what we might now call consociationalist: it provided representation in government for the wealthy and for the poor, and managed their conflicts through constitutional design. He calls the constitutions that reflect this approach “class warfare constitutions,” and contrasts them with “middle-class constitutions,” which assume that their society will not have such extreme differentiations in the distribution of wealth. The American Constitution, he argues, is in the latter category—which means it is threatened in a fundamental way by gross inequalities of wealth.

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