Lockdown Fatigue: Pandemic from the Perspective of Nudge Theory

Some governments have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by developing policies based on ideas from behavioural psychology, especially ‘nudge theory’. But the pandemic has highlighted two important failings of ‘nudging’ – its libertarian opposition to state intervention; and its lack of any theory of psychological interiority.

First popularised by Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein and University of Chicago behavioural economist Richard Thaler, nudge theory has been credited for many policies that are common-sensical – positioning hand sanitisers in prominent locations in receptions of buildings accompanied by colourful signage will increase usage; citizens should be advised to sing happy birthday while washing their hands as this will ensure their handwashing lasts for the recommended duration; tissues might be placed within easy reach of office workers to discourage unprotected face touching; etc. Continue reading

Proportionality, Exception, and Transformation in Times of Pandemics: Expanding the Spectrum of Constitutional Relevance

As the literature on authoritarian constitutionalism and democratic decay has repeatedly remarked, there are several factors that distinguish the wave of neo-authoritarianism that currently travels the world from earlier instantiations of the genre. One of them is the fact that contemporary neo-authoritarians do not outlaw the opposition, cancel elections, shut down the media, or violently repress social discontent, but rather use softer and often legally admissible ways of advancing their agenda – generating patterns of gradual but sustained and ever deeper democratic erosion, instead of sudden collapse. A second distinguishing factor is that the current authoritarian wave affects as much “new” democracies that have experienced rule-of-law and democratic-quality problems for long, as prestigious constitutional democracies we considered to be exceedingly consolidated. There is a sort of unexpected levelling-down, “equalization-in-the-bad” component to current developments. Continue reading

Gegen obrigkeits­staatliche Tendenzen in der Krise. Massive Freiheitseingriffe und deren Grundrechtliche Rechtfertigung

I. Der massiv eingreifende Staat unter grundrechtlichem Rechtfertigungsdruck

Die Grundentscheidung vor ĂŒber vier Wochen, der Corona-Pandemie mit einem weitgehenden Lockdown zu begegnen, war trotz der fĂŒr die Nachkriegszeit prĂ€zedenzlosen GrundrechtseinschrĂ€nkungen – bei aller berechtigter Kritik an FormalitĂ€ten (siehe hier und hier) und auch einiger Einzelmaßnahmen (siehe hier und hier) – grundsĂ€tzlich verfassungsrechtlich gerechtfertigt. Mehr noch, hĂ€tten die Bundes-und Landesregierungen einen Kurs verfolgt, der auf GrundrechtsbeschrĂ€nkungen verzichtet hĂ€tte und der Pandemie freien Lauf gewĂ€hrt hĂ€tte, um schnellstmöglich weitreichende ImmunitĂ€t und damit das relativ schnelle Ende der Pandemie bei möglichst geringem wirtschaftlichen Schaden zu erreichen, wĂ€re eine solche Lösung auf der Basis der zum Entscheidungszeitpunkt vorliegenden Datenlage möglicherweise eine verfassungswidrige Verletzung der staatlichen Schutzplicht gegenĂŒber dem Recht auf Leben und körperlicher Unversehrtheit potentieller Opfer der Krankheit. Continue reading

Hungary’s Orbánistan: A Complete Arsenal of Emergency Powers

On 23 March 1933, an act was adopted in Nazi Germany in response to the “crisis” of the Reichstag fire to enable Hitler to issue decrees independently of the Reichstag and the presidency. Article 48 of the constitution of the Weimar Republic made this act possible. Eighty-seven years later, on 23 March 2020, the so-called ‘Enabling Act’ was put before the Hungarian Parliament. This was drafted under emergency constitutional provisions in Articles 48-54.

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„Trump ist nicht das Problem, sondern nur ein Symptom“

Maximilian Steinbeis/Verfassungsblog: Das Impeachment-Verfahren gegen Donald Trump ist gescheitert. Welchen Schaden hat die US-Verfassung darĂŒber genommen?

Mattias Kumm: Der Schaden ist erst einmal ein politischer. Die Entscheidung ist strikt nach Parteilinie gefallen, fast kein Republikaner hat fĂŒr die Amtsenthebung gestimmt. Ein solches Verfahren wie das Impeachment kann, wenn es gut lĂ€uft, an einem konkreten Fall allgemein verbindliche Mindeststandards als Exempel statuieren. Diese Funktion hat das Verfahren jedenfalls nicht erfĂŒllt, sondern nur die tiefe Zerrissenheit des Landes sichtbar gemacht. Continue reading

The Age of Constitutional Barbarism

In January 2011, we organized a mini conference about the Hungarian constitutional transformation at Humboldt University. We described the chain of events, from the landslide victory of the then-opposition party, Fidesz, to a series of drastic constitutional revisions. In our presentations, we called the transformation a constitutional crisis and we argued that the constitutional revisions did not meet the democratic constitutional standards. Continue reading

Criminalizing Dissent in Post-Democratic Societies

Since his election in late 2018, commentators have expressed deep concern at the threat posed to democracy by Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, including how his presidency will affect environmentalists, indigenous people and workers’ movements in Brazil and across Latin America. Among other things, Bolsonaro promised during his campaign for the presidency to banish political rivals from Brazil. Branding them ‘red outlaws’, he said that “Either they go overseas, or they go to jail”. The background to Bolsonaro’s election is now familiar. Promises to purge the state of a corrupt political class, to tackle violent crime, and fix a faltering economy are hallmarks of conservative-right rhetoric in the current conjuncture. Indeed, these issues featured in the Trump campaign in the United States, and to some degree in the run-up to Brexit in the United Kingdom. Both the Trump and Brexit campaigns also had antagonism to migrants as their centrepiece. Continue reading