Vanderbilt Law Review


Reginald Parker

First Page



"A good government," Albert Einstein said recently, "not only gives its citizens a maximum amount of liberty and political rights but also provides for a certain amount of economic security."' Our Constitution provides for political rights and liberties but not for economic security. Unlike foreign federal constitutions it neither provides for it directly nor delegates social legislation to the states; nor does the Constitution expressly prohibit this type of law. As, however, the Constitution authorizes the states to exercise powers not reserved to the central government, it may be deduced that unemployment relief legislation is within the competence of the states, at least if it stays within the confines of other provisions limiting state power, such as the Contract Clause of Article I, Section 10, and the Fourteenth Amendment. Inasmuch as these limitations, however, do not appear to be relevant for our discussion it can be stated plainly that the states have legislative jurisdiction pertinent to unemployment compensation.

Yet many of the states either cannot or do not want to act on matters of social welfare. The reasons for this inertia have been exposed convincingly by Senator Neuberger and need not be explored here. Suffice it to say that what is true now was true in the 1930's: some of the states had workable unemployment relief laws but many others approached the problem feebly and reluctantly. It was, as is so often the case, the Federal Government to whom everybody looked.