Aspirational Rules

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A long-standing puzzle in comparative constitutional law revolves around the negative correlation between the number of constitutional rights incorporated in constitutions and a country’s human rights situation. Is it only a correlation, driven by other sociological or historical factors? Is it that committing to more de jure rights hurts the protection of de facto human rights? Or is it that countries with worse human rights records are more likely to amend their constitutions to include more rights? This article discusses an experiment that examines the existence and direction of a causal effect between setting overly ambitious goals and achieving outcomes and the potential mechanisms underlying it. The main finding is that setting overly ambitious goals may not only be counterproductive in the domains in which such goals are set but may also have a negative spillover effect to other domains.

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