Welfare and the Constitution

Princeton University Press
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Welfare and the Constitution defends a largely forgotten understanding of the U.S. Constitution: the positive or "welfarist" view of Abraham Lincoln and the Federalist Papers. Sotirios Barber challenges conventional scholarship by arguing that the government has a constitutional duty to pursue the well-being of all the people. He shows that James Madison was right in saying that the "real welfare" of the people must be the "supreme object" of constitutional government. With conceptual rigor set in fluid prose, Barber opposes the shared view of America's Right and Left: that the federal constitutional duties of public officials are limited to respecting negative liberties and maintaining processes of democratic choice.

Barber contends that no historical, scientific, moral, or metaethical argument can favor today's negative constitutionalism over Madison's positive understanding. He urges scholars to develop a substantive account of constitutional ends for use in critiquing Supreme Court decisions, the policies of elected officials, and the attitudes of the larger public. He defends the philosophical possibility of such theories while also offering a theory of his own as a starting point for the discussion the book will provoke. This theory holds, for example, that voucher schemes which drain resources from secular public schools to schools that would train citizens to submit to religious authority are unconstitutional; First Amendment issues aside, such schemes defeat what is undeniably an element of the "real welfare" of the people, individually and collectively: the capacity to think critically for oneself.

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About the author

Sotirios A. Barber is Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of On What the Constitution Means and The Constitution of Judicial Power, and coeditor of Constitutional Politics (Princeton).
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Jan 10, 2009
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Pages
192
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ISBN
9781400825837
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / Constitutions
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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This is a time of far-reaching change and debate in American education and social policy, spurred in part by a rediscovery that civil-society institutions are often better than government at meeting human needs. As Charles Glenn shows in this book, faith-based schools and social agencies have been particularly effective, especially in meeting the needs of the most vulnerable. However, many oppose providing public funds for religious institutions, either on the grounds that it would threaten the constitutional separation of church and state or from concern it might dilute or secularize the distinctive character of the institutions themselves. Glenn tackles these arguments head on. He builds a uniquely comprehensive and persuasive case for faith-based organizations playing a far more active role in American schools and social agencies. And, most importantly, he shows that they could do so both while receiving public funds and while striking a workable balance between accountability and autonomy.

Glenn is ideally placed to make this argument. A leading expert on international education policies, he was for many years the director of urban education and civil rights for the Massachusetts Department of Education, and also serves as an Associate Minister of inner-city churches in Boston. Glenn draws on all his varied experience here as he reviews the policies and practices of governments in the United States and Europe as they have worked with faith-based schools and also with such social agencies as the Salvation Army and Teen Challenge. He seeks to answer key theoretical and practical questions: Why should government make greater use of faith-based providers? How could they do so without violating First Amendment limits? What working relationships protect the goals and standards both of government and of the organizations that the government funds? Glenn shows that, with appropriate forms of accountability and a strong commitment to a distinctive vision of service, faith-based organizations can collaborate safely with government, to their mutual benefit and that of those they serve. This is a major contribution to one of the most important topics in political and social debate today.

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"The United States Supreme Court", writes Sotirios A. Barber, "is being strangled by the combined forces of skillful enemies and incompetent friends, forces united in their inability either to grasp or to tolerate constitutional law as an independent moral voice in American politics". In The Constitution of Judicial Power Barber takes on these enemies and friends of the Court, attacking New Right ideas about constitutional interpretation as well as the ideas of liberals who have abandoned the classical constitutionalism that alone justifies Warren-era activism. Barber begins by reviewing the basic arguments of the New Right, with special attention to those of Robert Bork and Walter Berns. He then demonstrates that judicial activism, long scorned by the Court's bitterest critics, is part of a constitutional philosophy deeply rooted in The Federalist Papers - despite conservatives' frequent claims to know the framers' "original intent". Barber shows that New Right theorists, such as Bork, and establishment liberals, such as Ronald Dworkin, are moral relativists who cannot escape conclusions ("might makes right", for example) that could destroy constitutionalism in America. The best hope for American freedoms, Barber argues, is to revive classical constitutionalism - and he explains how new movements in philosophy today allow the Court's friends to do just that. Written in a lively and engaging style, The Constitution of Judicial Power is certain to provoke controversy among constitutional experts and general readers alike. Barber offers a lucid explanation and penetrating analysis of the current debate over the Court - and why it matters. He reaffirms that simple justice - and not"original intent" - undergirds the constitution of judicial power.
"The United States Supreme Court", writes Sotirios A. Barber, "is being strangled by the combined forces of skillful enemies and incompetent friends, forces united in their inability either to grasp or to tolerate constitutional law as an independent moral voice in American politics". In The Constitution of Judicial Power Barber takes on these enemies and friends of the Court, attacking New Right ideas about constitutional interpretation as well as the ideas of liberals who have abandoned the classical constitutionalism that alone justifies Warren-era activism. Barber begins by reviewing the basic arguments of the New Right, with special attention to those of Robert Bork and Walter Berns. He then demonstrates that judicial activism, long scorned by the Court's bitterest critics, is part of a constitutional philosophy deeply rooted in The Federalist Papers - despite conservatives' frequent claims to know the framers' "original intent". Barber shows that New Right theorists, such as Bork, and establishment liberals, such as Ronald Dworkin, are moral relativists who cannot escape conclusions ("might makes right", for example) that could destroy constitutionalism in America. The best hope for American freedoms, Barber argues, is to revive classical constitutionalism - and he explains how new movements in philosophy today allow the Court's friends to do just that. Written in a lively and engaging style, The Constitution of Judicial Power is certain to provoke controversy among constitutional experts and general readers alike. Barber offers a lucid explanation and penetrating analysis of the current debate over the Court - and why it matters. He reaffirms that simple justice - and not"original intent" - undergirds the constitution of judicial power.
Ronald Dworkin famously argued that fidelity in interpreting the Constitution as written calls for a fusion of constitutional law and moral philosophy. Barber and Fleming take up that call, arguing for a philosophic approach to constitutional interpretation. In doing so, they systematically critique the competing approaches - textualism, consensualism, originalism, structuralism, doctrinalism, minimalism, and pragmatism - that aim and claim to avoid a philosophic approach. Constitutional Interpretation: The Basic Questions illustrates that these approaches cannot avoid philosophic reflection and choice in interpreting the Constitution. Barber and Fleming contend that fidelity in constitutional interpretation requires a fusion of philosophic and other approaches, properly understood. Within such a fusion, interpreters would begin to think of text, consensus, intentions, structures, and doctrines not as alternatives to, but as sites of philosophic reflection about the best understanding of our constitutional commitments. Constitutional Interpretation: The Basic Questions, examines the fundamental inquiries that arise in interpreting constitutional law. In doing so, the authors survey the controversial and intriguing questions that have stirred constitutional debate in the United States for over two centuries, such as: how and for what ends should governmental institutions and powers be arranged; what does the Constitution mean under general circumstances and how should it be interpreted during concrete controversies; and finally how do we decide what our constitution means and who ultimately decides its meaning.
Ronald Dworkin famously argued that fidelity in interpreting the Constitution as written calls for a fusion of constitutional law and moral philosophy. Barber and Fleming take up that call, arguing for a philosophic approach to constitutional interpretation. In doing so, they systematically critique the competing approaches - textualism, consensualism, originalism, structuralism, doctrinalism, minimalism, and pragmatism - that aim and claim to avoid a philosophic approach. Constitutional Interpretation: The Basic Questions illustrates that these approaches cannot avoid philosophic reflection and choice in interpreting the Constitution. Barber and Fleming contend that fidelity in constitutional interpretation requires a fusion of philosophic and other approaches, properly understood. Within such a fusion, interpreters would begin to think of text, consensus, intentions, structures, and doctrines not as alternatives to, but as sites of philosophic reflection about the best understanding of our constitutional commitments. Constitutional Interpretation: The Basic Questions, examines the fundamental inquiries that arise in interpreting constitutional law. In doing so, the authors survey the controversial and intriguing questions that have stirred constitutional debate in the United States for over two centuries, such as: how and for what ends should governmental institutions and powers be arranged; what does the Constitution mean under general circumstances and how should it be interpreted during concrete controversies; and finally how do we decide what our constitution means and who ultimately decides its meaning.
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