Why universal welfare rights are impossible and what it means

Politics, Philosophy and Economics 9 (4):428-445 (2010)
Cranston argued that scarcity makes universal welfare rights impossible. After showing that this argument cannot be avoided by denying scarcity, I consider four challenges to the argument which accept the possibility of conflicts between the duties implied by rights. The first denies the agglomeration principle; the second embraces conflicts of duties; the third affirms the violability of all rights-based duties; and the fourth denies that duties to compensate are overriding. I argue that all four challenges to the scarcity argument are unsuccessful. I then discuss Eddy’s recent challenge, which makes welfare rights context dependent, but I argue that this also fails because it makes rights unknowable. I conclude that the scarcity argument, restated in the light of the discussion, shows that universal welfare rights, as ordinarily understood, are impossible and I explain the philosophical and practical significance of this conclusion
Keywords conflicts  context-dependent rights  overriding duties  scarcity  welfare rights  rights  duties  compensation  ought implies can  agglomeration
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DOI 10.1177/1470594X10368267
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Siegfried van Duffel (2013). Natural Rights to Welfare. European Journal of Philosophy 21 (4):641-664.

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