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What is the merit of the Constitution and what should we know about it?

This theme is central to the recently published book 'Onze Constitutie' by Wim Voermans, professor of constitutional and administrative law. The colossal book has no fewer than 911 pages, but Voermans has managed to turn it into one very readable book, with fluent pen, with an eloquent tone and, moreover, accessible to a wider audience than just lawyers.

Opposite aim

State lawyers, and Voermans too, believe that the public should become more 'constitutionally wise'.

The title of Voermans's book 'Onze Constitutie' (Our Constitution) is taken from a fiery plea by the conservative statesman Alexander Savornin de Lohman, who was dismissed from the Free University in 1986 as a result of quarrels. At the time, he was protesting against universal suffrage and wrote a pamphlet, in which he explained that the Constitution should not be the result of the people's souverenity but, on the contrary, the result of a revelation to political leaders and proof of the trinity of God, the Netherlands and the House of Orange.
Voermans thanked his reformed former colleague and wrote an even thicker book with exactly the opposite aim.

Empty law

For Voermans, the constitution is the mental map of citizenship - an invisible social construct that citizens accept as the basis for paying taxes and accepting the exercise of power. A source of trust, continuity and, above all, legal protection.

What can we learn from Voermans about the much-discussed crisis of trust between government and citizens? Mainly that we should not get too easily carried away by it in the light of centuries. After all, democracy as a form of state 'really seems to work'.

t ensures political stability, enables peaceful leadership changes, seems less prone to violence and is much more flexible than authoritarian systems in times of crisis. The Dutch Constitution is an 'empty' law, in which little of the state system is fixed. And Voermans believes that above all, it should stay that way.


Want to know more?

You can read both reviews in Dutch newspapers  Volkskrant and NRC

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