Reflections on the Socio-Economic Rights Debate
Universidad Carlos III de Madrid
B. G. Flóvenz, D. Þ. Björgvinsson, G. D. Guðmundsdóttir and O. M. Arnardóttir, eds., Ragnarsbók [Festschrift for Ragnar Aðalsteinsson] (Reykjavík, Mannréttinda-skrifstofa Íslands and Hið íslenska bókmenntafélag, 2009), pp. 453-484
This chapter offers some observations on the ongoing debate about whether socio-economic rights should be recognized and enforced by national constitutional systems. The chapter first surveys arguments advanced from three sources of support for constitutional socio-economic rights: 'left' liberalism; 'soft' versions of Marxist-socialism; and Christian social thought. It then sets out the most common objections to constitutional socio-economic rights from mainstream liberal ideology: first, that there are historical reasons why civil and political rights, but not socio-economic rights, deserve constitutional protection; secondly, that matters pertaining to socio-economic rights are 'political' and are thus more appropriately addressed by democratically elected representatives rather than interpreted and enforced by unelected judges; and, thirdly, that enforcement of these rights would have uncontrollable resource implications which render them unsuitable for constitutional protection. The chapter then sets out the many flaws and inconsistencies in these objections and offers some concluding remarks about what is a multifaceted and important debate concerning the future of human rights.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 32
Keywords: socio-economic rights, constitutional law, constitutional rights, human rights
Date posted: September 17, 2012 ; Last revised: September 25, 2012
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