A constitution is a body of general rules that limit the powers of government, not a repository of laws binding on the people. If the people wish to entrench legislation—out of the reach of the legislature—they should do so through legislative initiative. Ranking higher than common legislation, such laws are subject to repeal only by the people.

Alabama’s state constitution provides a thorough example of what not to include. Among its many inappropriate provisions are mandates for the promotion of catfish, soybeans, poultry, swine, and grain, regulations governing the disposal of dead farm animals, the provision of free railroad tickets to elected officials, the outlawing of prostitution and many other subjects which are properly the remit of legislation.

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove