A recent Tyler Cowen post casually mentioned that the Indian constitution is the longest of any sovereign nation. At 117,369 words it is more than 20 times longer than the U.S. Constitution.
At first first glance, this seems silly. Especially when I think about how important the letter of the law is in India. But then I started to wonder if there was a good reason for this length.
As far as different non-political groups, the United States Constitution had to accommodate and balance the needs of Northern states vs. Southern states (the three-fifths compromise) and the small states vs. the larger states (the Connecticut Compromise). I’m sure there are other constituencies that I’ve forgotten from my middle school civics class, but I don’t think there were too many more.
India, on the other hand, had (and has) dozens upon dozens of important groups who would have all wanted their say in the New Constitution. For starters, India has 29 different major languages (ones spoken by over a million people). Then there is the caste system. On top of that, there is the Hindu-Muslim issue. And let’s not forget the southern Dravidans vs. the northern Indians.
Now, is the resulting document a messy result of Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen or properly reflective of the country’s complexity? I have no idea.