David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Social Philosophy and Policy 24 (1):234-265 (2007)
If the U.S. Constitution is a liberal Constitution, liberal governments can have a constitutional obligation to secure positive benefits or welfare rights. The original constitutional text describes a government instrumental to the Preamble's abstract ends or goods. Constitutional rights can be reconciled to the text's instrumentalist logic by viewing them as functional to better conceptions of abstract ends among actors who would compensate for their fallibility. The Federalist confirms the instrumentalism of the constitutional text. Conservative writers who treat negative liberties as constitutional ends err in several ways. They assume rational actors would establish a government for the sake of limiting it, and they ignore the positive nature of goods (life, liberty, property) that are the objects of negative liberties. They also fail to see that tax-supported protections for all positive goods, including the objects of negative liberties, must be justified by public purposes.
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