Social Rights, Courts and Constitutional Democracy - Poverty and Welfare Rights in the United States
William E. Forbath
University of Texas at Austin - School of Law
ON THE STATE OF DEMOCRACY, Julio Faudez, ed., London, Routledge, 2006
U of Texas Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 81
Social rights - to basic income, health care, education, decent work - are indispensable for constitutional democracy. Yet it is widely believed that social rights have no place in U.S. experience. That is wrong. In the 1960s and 1970s, U.S. courts collaborated with social movements and activist attorneys to pioneer judicial recognition and enforcement of social rights, and these developments quietly continue in several American state court systems. This study offers a brief history of the social, political, judicial, and intellectual adventures of the "welfare rights movement" of the 1960s and 1970s, with an eye to current debates about the possibilities and limits of courts and constitutionalism as vehicles for promoting social rights. It engages with two programmatic alternatives: the basic income idea and the idea of employment-based social citizenship, and it offers some reflections about the practical and moral promises and pitfalls of each one.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 41
Date posted: November 19, 2005