Although the question of whether constitutional rights matter is of great theoretical and practical importance, little is known about whether constitutional rights impact government behavior. In this paper, we test the effectiveness of six political rights. We hypothesize that there exists a difference between organizational rights – most notably, the rights to unionize and form political parties – and individual rights. Specifically, we suggest that organizational rights increase de facto rights protection, because they create organizations with the incentives and means to protect the underlying right, which renders these rights self-enforcing. Such organizations are not necessarily present to protect individual rights, which could make individual rights less effective. We test our theory using a variety of statistical methods on a dataset of constitutional rights for 186 countries. The results support our theory: organizational rights are associated with increased de facto rights protection.

Adam S. Chilton & Mila Versteeg, Do Constitutional Rights Make a Difference?, 60 American Journal of Political Science 575–589 (2016).