SYMPOSIUM THE CONSTITUTION AND THE OBLIGATIONS OF GOVERNMENT TO SECURE THE MATERIAL PRECONDITIONS FOR A GOOD SOCIETY: RIGHTS, CAPABILITIES, AND THE GOOD SOCIETY Skip over navigation
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Copyright (c) 2001 Fordham Law Review
Fordham Law Review

SYMPOSIUM THE CONSTITUTION AND THE OBLIGATIONS OF GOVERNMENT TO SECURE THE MATERIAL PRECONDITIONS FOR A GOOD SOCIETY: RIGHTS, CAPABILITIES, AND THE GOOD SOCIETY

April, 2001

69 Fordham L. Rev. 1901

Author

Robin West*

Excerpt



Introduction
 
What is a "good society," as opposed to a just one, and what is demanded of the state by the demand of "goodness" in a good society? Must a state in a good society ensure for its citizens the minimal material preconditions of a decent life? Is it obligated to do so? Many of course, think not, but of those who think there is such an obligation, there are a variety of reasons, or arguments proffered, as to why. One "civic republican" argument, revitalized over the last fifteen years by Michael Sandel, 1 is basically instrumental. A state, in a good society, might be obligated to ensure for its citizens some minimal level of material goods, but if so, it is required to do so in order to instill some threshold level of civic virtue: in a good society, citizens must be able to be free and equal participants in the collective project of self rule, and if some threshold level of material well-being is necessary for that participation, then the state is obligated to provide it. 2

A quite different and perhaps more basic sort of response, held by scores of liberal, progressive, and radical legal theorists over the last century, as well as innumerable political activists and state actors, might be called a "welfarist" conception - the state, in a good society, is directly, not just instrumentally, obligated to ensure that all citizens enjoy some minimal threshold level ...
 
 
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