Constitutionalism is the effort to impose a higher level order on the actions of government so that officials are not the judges of the limits of their own authority. Just as law is a limitation on action, a constitution limits the government's actions and is therefore a “law for laws.” In the absence of a constitution, a state's ruling power is ultimately arbitrary, and its decisions are matters of decree rather than of well-settled and generally understood principles. Such a society can provide little protection for individual rights, economic prosperity, or the rule of law.

Although some writers have defined the term constitution broadly enough to encompass any institution that helps constitute a society—including languages or religious traditions—the term is more precisely used to describe ...

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