On constitutional welfare liberalism: An old-liberal perspective

Social Philosophy and Policy 24 (1):266-288 (2007)
Abstract
One new form of liberalism is a doctrine that might be called Constitutional Welfare Liberalism. It stands in some continuity with the varieties of welfare and equality oriented liberalism that emerged in the Nineteenth Century and which found expression in the U.S. in political movements like the New Deal of F.D.R. and the Great Society of L.B.J. Constitutional Welfare Liberalism differs somewhat from earlier versions of Welfare Liberalism in that it claims to be solidly grounded in the fundamentals of the liberal tradition and of the American Constitution. Advocates of Constitutional Welfare Liberalism would replace what they call the “negative-liberties model” of the Constitutional order with a “benefits model.” They rest their case on an analysis of rights that denies the meaningfulness of the common distinction between negative and positive rights. Some advocates of Constitutional Welfare Liberalism also base their claims on the positive empowerments and ends of government as expressed in the Preamble to the Constitution. It is shown here via an analysis of the negative/positive rights distinction that the distinction is indeed meaningful when understood more accurately than Constitutional Welfare Liberalism theorists do. Likewise it is shown that neither the general character of the Constitution as an empowerment of government, nor the particular goals stated in the Preamble imply the benefits model.
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