Social Rights under the Constitution: Government and the Decent Life

Social Rights under the Constitution: Government and the Decent Life

Social Rights under the Constitution: Government and the Decent Life

Social Rights under the Constitution: Government and the Decent Life

Synopsis

'A stimulating and worthwhile read for anyone interested in social justice, constitutional rights or contemporary political theory. It contains challenging and thought-provoking analysis which may unsettle or, at the very least, question some common assumptions about social rights. Perhaps the greatest benefit of this book for public lawyers lies in her reliance on a rich philosophical literature of which United Kingdom public lawyers are sometimes unaware... One of the book's merits is the seriousness with which Fabre takes her opponents and the attention she devotes to examining and sometimes refuting their arguments.' -Journal of Law and Society'Each chapter constitutes a carefully placed building block which, by the end, amount to a formidable defence of the idea that we should think of issues of social justice in terms of constitutional social rights.' -Journal of Law and SocietyThe book theoretically examines the recent and topical debates over democracy and social rights, arguing that there are four fundamental rights that should be constitutionalized; minimum income; housing; healthcare; and education. The theoretical discussion is explored within an analysis of important legal cases.

Excerpt

'Poverty is the ruin of the poor; the wealth of the rich is their fortified city.'

Proverbs, 10-18.

'Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons'.

Woody Allen.

Many philosophers have attempted to defend social rights to adequate minimum income, adequate housing, adequate education, and adequate health care, where adequate is defined, in relation to the level of social and economic development, as the amount of resources everyone would agree is minimally required for people to live a decent life. The argument I offer for such rights in this chapter draws on them to a considerable extent. However, such attempts have not always been very successful. If the claims made in this book are to be convincing it is necessary that a defence of these rights be offered at the outset and that the levels of resources these rights warrant be specified in greater detail. This first chapter thus sets the stage for the claim that social rights should be constitutionalized.

In the Introduction, I assumed that we have moral rights against others that they respect our autonomy and well-being by not interfering with us. This chapter aims to show that we have rights against others that they promote them. There is a difference between respecting autonomy and well-being on the one hand, and promoting them on the other hand. We respect others' autonomy and well-being by refraining from acting in such a way as to harm them. We promote them by acting in such a way as to further them. Having rights that they be respected imposes negative duties of non-interference, whereas having rights that they be promoted imposes positive duties to give the resources necessary to achieve them.

Some of our negative rights against others that they respect our autonomy and well-being are familiar enough. Consider the right to freedom of association. If we cannot exercise this freedom, we lack many opportunities for

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