Necessity or balancing: The protection of rights under different proportionality tests - Experimental evidence

Talya Steiner*, Liat Netzer, Raanan Sulitzeanu-Kenan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite its global proliferation, there is no standard formulation for proportionality analysis. The result is debate over the optimal formulation and application of the doctrine and the ramifications of adopting different versions. A subset of this debate relates to which element of the doctrine provides rights with greater protection against competing public interests. Although this dispute is essentially empirical, arguments on the matter remain strictly theoretical. This study presents the first experimental analysis of the effects of specific subtests of proportionality analysis on the level of protection afforded to rights. We find strong evidence that applying proportionality in terms of the necessity test - whether there are less restrictive means - results in greater protection of rights in policy decisions than does applying proportionality in terms of the strict proportionality test - balancing the benefit against the harm. The findings suggest that including a necessity component within the proportionality doctrine, and emphasizing it as a central stage of the analysis, can enhance the protection of rights in decisions regarding rights-restricting policy.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)642-663
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of Constitutional Law
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research for this article was undertaken as part of the "Proportionality in Public Policy" project at the Israel Democracy Institute, with support from the European Research Council under the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013), ERC grant no. 324182.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s).


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