Journal Article

Socioeconomic rights in constitutional law: Explaining America away

Frank I. Michelman

in International Journal of Constitutional Law

Published on behalf of The New York University School of Law

Volume 6, issue 3-4, pages 663-686
Published in print January 2008 | ISSN: 1474-2640
Published online July 2008 | e-ISSN: 1474-2659 | DOI:
Socioeconomic rights in constitutional law: Explaining America away

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  • Constitutional and Administrative Law
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The apparent absence of a commitment to socioeconomic rights in United States constitutional law gives rise to continuing debate. It is unclear that this omission has any bearing on the actual performance of American governments in the social welfare field. Might there be other reasons for treating the omission as problematic? If so, might the omission nevertheless be explained in terms consistent with the belief that some kind of socioeconomic commitment ideally does belong in the constitutional law of a country like the U.S.? After briefly reviewing the uneasy instrumental case for a constitutionalized socioeconomic commitment, this article suggests why inclusion could be demanded, nonetheless, as a matter of political-moral principle. It then canvasses possible responses to the American case. These include both a possible denial that socioeconomic guarantees are, in fact, lacking from U.S. constitutional law and a possible claim that omitting them is the correct choice for the U.S. as a matter of nonideal political morality.

Journal Article.  11147 words. 

Subjects: Constitutional and Administrative Law ; UK Politics

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