While we are used to thinking about inequality in terms of income and redistribution, inequalities in access to basic needs and essential public goods are a crucial way to build structural inequality and exclusion. To combat this form of exclusion, we need two things. First, we need a broader way of conceptualizing public goods that goes beyond conventional economic understanding and instead focuses on the range of goods essential to human well-being. Second, we must focus our attention on the realities of who controls and governs these goods. According to this approach, the achievement of inclusion depends on the reform of these modes of managing access to necessities. These changes, in turn, can lead to a series of legal and institutional reforms that can lead to a more inclusive approach to meeting basic needs. We can consider the various necessities at stake in these political struggles and other vital goods such as education as « public goods ». The concept of public goods is conventionally understood in economic terms and refers to non-competing and non-excludable goods characterised by high sunk costs with increasing economies of scale, so that they are likely to be undersupply by normal competition in the market. But we can look at regulations such as health care, education, water and housing as examples of public goods in a broader moral and political sense – basic needs that enable essential inputs that enable social and economic well-being. 6 6 See subsection I.A. The immediate well-being of communities, long-term economic opportunities and social inclusion depend to a large extent on their ability to access these needs.
Differentiated access to these public goods is therefore a particularly worrying and harmful form of inequality. The literature on water and housing law is abundant and does not need to be reproduced here. For our needs, water and housing are two useful examples of public goods and inequalities today, creating broader perspectives. Access to and governance of basic infrastructure such as water and the impact of macro-scale urban planning on access to housing and economic opportunities show how inequality is rooted at the centre of issues of domination and control of access to public goods. The quality, value and scope of these assets depend on how a number of public and private actors manage them, which in turn defines the lived reality of inclusion, equality and belonging. Today`s supporters must therefore address this dimension of governance of public goods. However, the problem is not just the direct problem of the first order, namely that service providers block access; Rather, there is an additional, more subtle set of second-order governance flaws that contribute to unequal access to basic necessities. While a comprehensive historical account of these struggles for economic and social inclusion would be beyond the scope of this essay, the Part I discussion of the tradition of public utility and civil rights movements highlights several key issues for our current goals. First, there is a wide range of basic needs and public goods – from physical infrastructure, such as railways and gas plants highlighted by progressive-era utility reformers, to non-physical public goods such as health care – that are essential to human flourishing and belonging to the wider community. The vital nature of these goods makes it particularly dangerous to exclude or condition access to them as a source of domination, subordination and inequality.
Second, the provision of these goods is not a matter of abstract and ideal theory; Rather, there are existing service providers who form the infrastructure for delivery and therefore have the option of excluding themselves. Third, ensuring inclusion and equality therefore required the creation of legal systems that could somehow monitor and hold accountable these service providers in order to facilitate more equitable access. These three themes form the dynamics of what this essay depicted as the construction of citizenship. Equality and inclusion depend in part on a set of basic rules that shape the conditions of access to public goods and basic needs. These forms of systemic inequality and exclusion are therefore themselves the product of legal regimes. In other words, legal systems are at the heart of building inequalities and different access to basic needs such as housing. 98 98 See section A.I. for a more in-depth discussion of dominance and structural inequalities. Close to appearing exclusively in relation to housing or water, this scheme also extends to other public goods and claims. Poverty researchers have long observed how administrative systems make it difficult for individuals to access requests such as food stamps, unemployment insurance and other safety net protections, requiring multiple trips to social services, heavy paperwork, and often degrading and arbitrary interviews.
99 99 See Kathryn J. Edin & H. Luke Shaefer, $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America 32 (2016) (explains that people eligible for social assistance « may be discouraged from applying because the process takes so long »); Daniel L. Hatcher, The Poverty Industry: The Exploitation of America`s Most Vulnerable Citizens 22–24 (2016) (« [I]n confidential systems with unlimited discretion as sought by the authorities. the rights of the weak often give way to the personal interests of the agencies. »). For a classic account of the problem described above, see Michael Lipsky, Bureaucratic Disentitlement in Social Welfare Programs, 58 Soc. Serv.
Rev. 3, 4 (1984); see also Vicki Lens, Bureaucratic Disentitlement After Welfare Reform: Are Fair Hearings the Cure?, 12 Geo. J. on Poverty L. & Pol`y 13, 48–54 (2005) (discusses how the Welfare Reform Act of 1996 contributed to bureaucratic de-titling and assesses whether goldberg v.
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