Work and livelihoods; poverty and dependency; economic security and insecurity; grave inequalities of wealth and lack of access to decent education, health care, housing and other basic social goods: the economic crisis and the Obama presidency have focused attention on these issues. But with the important exception of anti-discrimination law, we tend to think that the Constitution has little to say about them. Considering how many other issues find important expression in constitutional law and constitutional politics, that is surprising. Can and should it change?
This course will address that question by looking at (a) the nation's past constitutional experience in this realm - including Franklin Roosevelt's "Second Bill of Rights"; the 1960s welfare rights movement, and the Warren Court's innovations in education and welfare law; more recent State (Texas, New York, etc.) constitutional litigation around the rights to education and welfare, and (b) the experience of other constitutional courts around the globe, where social and economic rights advocacy and adjudication are breaking new ground. Along the way, we also will address rival normative theories and policy perspectives on social and economic justice.