Monday, December 11, 2017 06:18:33 AM

Ending poverty by judicial decree: Constitutionalised welfare rights are a utopian nightmare

By Prof. Suri Ratnapala - Thu Apr 13, 12:19 am

Photograph courtesy UNDP, Palmyrah Processing Centre, Naruvilikulam, Mannar, Sri Lanka

There is a movement around the world that is clamouring for the recognition of an extensive catalogue of positive social, economic and cultural rights as constitutionally protected and judicially enforceable entitlements. The claims include rights to free health and education, sufficient food, adequate shelter, decent employment, state pensions, fair wages and prices, consumer protection, and a clean environment. There is plenty more on the wish list. The push for judicialising welfare rights is strongest in countries that can least afford judicially mandated welfare goods but it is also gaining some traction in Western democracies, as evidenced by the recent Swiss referendum on a proposal to create a universal basic income and similar moves in Finland. The Swiss proposal was overwhelmingly rejected by the electorate but this idea is receiving serious attention in some European legislatures.[i]

At the time of writing there are reports of serious civil unrest in South Africa, Brazil and Venezuela related to economic hardship. These three countries possess enormous natural resources. They have constitutionalised welfare rights….

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