State Constitutions: Tough to Write a Good One

"A constitution," said Justice Benjamin Cardozo, "states, or ought to state, not rules for the passing hour but principles for an expanding future." In the U.S., most state constitutions pay no heed to Cardozo's dictum.

Instead, most begin by floridly invoking the help of what at least one refers to as "the Great Legislator of the Universe." From there, they wander. A wordy example is Louisiana's 1,000-page backbreaker, which gets into such minute areas as declaring Huey Long's birthday forever a legal holiday. Georgia's offers $250,000 to the state's first discoverer of...

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