Constitutional Idolatry or Irrelevance in Times of Crisis? The Case of the Netherlands


The Netherlands
Dutch constitutionalism
constitutional idolatry
constitutional literacy
childcare benefit scandal


Constitutional idolatry is a foreign concept to the Netherlands. Although the country is a mature democracy with one of the oldest constitutions in the world, the Constitution does not live in the hearts and minds of the people. Scholars, moreover, downplay its importance for the domestic legal order. The sudden public infatuation with the Constitution during the COVID-19 crisis was thus quite a shock to the system. This article explains why the Constitution normally plays a modest role in society and explores whether the COVID-19 crisis and childcare benefit scandal have changed anything in this respect. It is argued that the Constitution of the Netherlands is not adopted by and for the people but is written for the state and its institutions instead. Consequently, the Constitution does not appeal to the people. The abolition of the prohibition of constitutional review, which is seriously considered after the childcare benefit scandal, would resolve this problem only in part.