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53 S.M.U. L. Rev. 477 (2000)


In 1949 the new German Basic Law raised many questions. Could a newly minted constitution-mere words on paper-breathe new life into a people devastated by war? Would it serve as a stable framework of government? Would it promote respect for human rights and popular government? Would it foster internal political unity? Half a century later all these questions can be answered in the affirmative. The Basic Law is one of the world’s most respected and imitated constitutions and it has emerged as the vital center of Germany's constitutional culture. It is invoked repeatedly in parliamentary debates and resorted to in litigation by parties and politicians of all colors. It served as a rallying cry for Germany's reunification and it has also been adaptable to changes in the country’s social and political life. Though the Basic Law does have imperfections, such as the relative ease with which it can be amended, it has passed the test of time and much of the success of the Federal Republic of Germany are attributable to the values, rights, and powers it has laid down.


Reprinted with permission of Southern Methodist University Law Review.

Originally published as a chapter in Fifty Years of the German Basic Law: The New Departure for Germany (Washington D.C.: American Institute for Contemporary Germany Studies, Johns Hopkins University, 1999).



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