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Texas Politics - The Constitution
checks and balances
7.    Conclusion

Constitutions must perform multiple functions in democratic political systems, and their adequacy to these tasks can be evaluated accordingly.

First and foremost, they are expressions of popular sovereignty, compacts between government and the governed. They specify the powers and limits to power of the government, as well as the rights, privileges and immunities of the citizens that cannot be taken away by the government. Additionally, they specify how citizens may participate in democratic decision making processes that determine public policy.

Constitutions also outline a plan of government, the structure and functioning of the institutions of government. Finally, they serve as a kind of repository of accumulated cultural traditions. Sometimes constitutions involve the settlement of specific public policy issues.

In some ways, the Texas Constitution performs these functions well. It provides the general structure of our democratic government. By separating powers into three branches and creating a system of checks and balances between the branches, it continues a long tradition in American democracy. Also, through a process of accumulation, it has become a repository of important constitutional protections and legal traditions, like the Bill of Rights, homestead protection, and community property.

Unfortunately, the Texas Constitution falls short of the flexibility, empowerment of government institutions, and overall coherence needed for a large, modern, diverse state such as Texas in the 21st century. More unfortunate still is that the prospects for fundamental change seem as remote today as at any time in the state's history.

The Texas population and economy will continue to grow at a fast rate and become even more diverse. Will we reach a point where constitutional revision again seems a dire necessity? If so, will entrenched interests impede any attempt to fundamentally alter the institutions through which they have built their power and wealth? Will the citizens of Texas be able overcome the inertia and information costs necessary to carry forward such an enterprise?

Future efforts to overhaul the Constitution are not out of the question. Many states have revised their constitutions. But change will require extraordinary circumstances, such as one of the crises or watershed events that precipitated each of the previous constitutions in Texas. In the interim, we can expect the same unwieldy accumulation of incremental change.

Texas Politics:
© 2009, Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services
University of Texas at Austin
3rd Edition - Revision 116