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Why universal welfare rights are impossible and what it means

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  • Danny Frederick

    (14 Willow Tree Drive, Seaview, Isle of Wight, PO34 5JG, UK, danny.frederick@btinternet.com)

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Danny Frederick, 2010. "Why universal welfare rights are impossible and what it means," Politics, Philosophy & Economics, , vol. 9(4), pages 428-445, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:pophec:v:9:y:2010:i:4:p:428-445
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    References listed on IDEAS

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