Working Paper No. 19. Ratnapala, Suri (2003). Securing Constitutional Government: The Perpetual Challenge.

Abstract: Constitutional government is an ideal and like all ideals can only be achieved as an approximation. Even those countries that appear to be near the ideal are revealed on examination to be not so near. Constitutional government, to the extent it is achieved reflects a state of affairs. It remains under constant threat from power seekers, ideological opponents, ill-informed social engineers and manipulative special interests. It is also being eroded through the serious depletion of social capital in the post-industrial era that weakens the institutional foundations of constitutional government (Fukuyama, 1999). In other countries, economic circumstances, cultural constraints and entrenched ruling classes create seemingly intractable obstacles to the attainment of acceptable levels of constitutional government. It is a predicament that seriously harms not just the unfortunate peoples of these countries but, as I argue presently, also the industrialised democracies of the world. Hence deepening our understanding of the conditions that make constitutional government possible remains an intellectual task of the highest priority.