The University of Texas at Austin   School of Law

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January 22, 2007

Press Contacts: Kirston Fortune, Assistant Dean for Communications, (512) 471.7330 or kfortune@law.utexas.edu, and Anne Wheeler, LBJ Library & Museum, 512-721-0216, 512-731-2351 (cell).
Conference Contacts: Mary Hendryx, UT School of Law, 512-232-4860, and Professor Sanford Levinson, UT School of Law, 512-232-1351.

International Conference at Law School Addresses Future of the Welfare State, Feb. 1–3

Streaming Video of the Conference Now Available in Windows Media Format:
(Requires Windows Media Player)

Keynote addresses by journalist, political commentator E.J. Dionne and Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz

AUSTIN, Texas Poverty remains a big problem in the United States, and vast numbers of working Americans and their families lack health insurance and other basic goods.  Yet, the mid-20th century ideal of a generous “welfare state” providing these basic goods to everyone seems dead. Some argue that such programs create a lack of self-reliance; others claim that they place the United States and other developed societies at a significant disadvantage with regard to those countries that can attract increasing numbers of businesses through low wages and taxes. The future of the welfare state has become a subject of world-wide debate.

On Feb.1–3, the School of Law at The University of Texas at Austin, in co-sponsorship with the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library, will bring together internationally renowned scholars to address the practical and moral challenges of reinventing the welfare state in the 21st century. The conference–The Future of the Welfare State–is free and open to the University community and the general public. (Please note that the luncheons are for conference panelists.)

Keynote speakers include E.J. Dionne Jr., a leading liberal social thinker and public commentator, and Nobel Laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz, former chair of President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisors and former chief economist of the World Bank. Michael Walzer, Ernesto Cortes Jr., Charles Sabel, and internationally prominent thinkers and reformers from Germany and Ireland will address such topics as rationing health care, providing social goods, global migration, designing the new welfare state, and writing social and economic rights into newly designed constitutions.

Dionne, a regular op-ed columnist for The Washington Post  and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, kicks off the conference on Thursday, Feb. 1, at 6 p.m. with a keynote talk on “Religion, Social Justice, and the Welfare State” in the Frank Erwin Center’s Lone Star Room.  Tickets for this lecture are free and available through Wednesday, Jan 31, at 5 p.m. at the School of Law Communications Desk in the Susman-Godfrey Atrium. Dionne’s talk is also part of a series of public lectures on diversity and religion in American public life sponsored by The Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, the LBJ Library, and the Religious Studies Program at The University of Texas at Austin.  Tickets can also be reserved by calling CWGS at 471-5765 or through the Religious Studies Program.

Keynote speaker Stiglitz will talk on “Distributive Justice and the Global Economy” at 6 p.m. Friday in the Law School’s Charles I. Francis Auditorium (2.114).  Stiglitz, one of the world’s most prominent critics of globalization, is a professor at Columbia University in New York and chair of Columbia’s Committee on Global Thought. He is also the co-founder and executive director of the Initiative for Policy Dialogue at Columbia. In 2001, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics for his analyses of markets with asymmetric information.  He is the author, most recently, of Making Globalization Work.

The seminal book Spheres of Justice, by political theorist Michael Walzer, who is at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, will be the subject of the lead-off panel on Friday, Feb 2.  Its attempts to delineate the specific areas in which society should be concerned to alleviate social inequalities will be assessed by Dionne and Harvard political philosopher Nancy Rosenbaum.

Friday afternoon will be devoted to two sessions, one on the problem of rationing healthcare in today’s society, the other on the question of limiting the benefits of the welfare state only to citizens and therefore differentiating between such citizens and immigrants, whether legal or illegal.  Highlighting this session will be remarks from Ernesto Cortes Jr., a community organizer and the Southwest Regional Director of the Chicago-based Industrial Areas Foundation.

On Saturday morning, Feb. 3, Stiglitz will explore with other prominent social and economic thinkers the problem of redistributing wealth to pay for social programs in a global economy. Scholars on this panel include leading constitutional theorist Philip Bobbitt, also a law professor at The University of Texas and the author of The Shield of Achilles.  

On Saturday afternoon, Charles Sabel, an expert in economics and labor organization, and other panelists will discuss the challenge of rebuilding a generous welfare state that includes organizing and administering social programs in ways that empower people and deliver goods effectively.

The final panel on Saturday, “Constitutionalizing Welfare,” moderated by UT Law Dean Larry Sager, will discuss the role that courts  in many countries can play in order, to prod governments to enforce social provisions like education, food and healthcare that have been recognized as social or constitutional rights.

Directions to and parking near the Law School can be found at: http://www.utexas.edu/law/about/parking.html.