Aoife Nolan, Children's Socio‐Economic Rights, Democracy and the Courts, Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2011, 366 pp, hb £60.00.

AuthorConor O'Mahony
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/1468-2230.12077_3
Publication Date01 May 2014
Overall, then, I found the first half of The Insecurity State to be more con-
vincing than the second. The normative logic of vulnerable autonomy does seem
key to the law and rhetoric of anti-social behaviour. But it does not explain
other ‘security laws’ in the same way. And it does not obviously herald – at
least without further evidence and argument – the collapse of the liberal state’s
authority. Even if these criticisms are sound however, they do not detract
severely from what is overall a unique and fascinating book. In the context of an
increasingly specialised legal academy, it is a rare pleasure to read a book that
displays proficiency in so many disciplinary languages. Ramsay engages with
doctrinal scholarship, normative theory, criminology and political philosophy
with equal enthusiasm and aplomb – whilst avoiding the worst excesses of each.
The result is essential reading for anyone interested in the connections between
criminal justice and security. With any luck, The Insecurity State will help to unite
its readers in conversation about this urgent and important topic.
Andrew Cornford*
Aoife Nolan,Children’s Socio-Economic Rights, Democracy and the
Courts, Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2011, 366 pp, hb £60.00.
The enforcement of constitutional or human rights is, as a general matter, an area
fraught with legal challenges that lawyers, judges and academics have grappled
with for many decades. Within this sphere, the enforcement of some rights poses
more problems than others. For example, enforcing the rights of children tends
to be more problematic than enforcing the rights of adults, due to the challenges
posed by issues of capacity and maturity, participation, representation and access
to justice. Similarly, enforcing socio-economic rights tends to be more prob-
lematic than enforcing civil and political rights, for a variety of reasons relating
to the democratic legitimacy of court-mandated resource allocation and the
institutional capacity of courts to make decisions over scarce public resources. It
is hardly surprising, therefore, that the intersection of these two issues – namely,
the socio-economic rights of children – poses one of the most problematic and
controversial rights-enforcement dilemmas of all.
In Children’s Socio-Economic Rights, Democracy and the Courts, Professor Aoife
Nolan has faced up to this challenge, and presented a carefully crafted and
compelling argument as to why the courts should not shy away from enforcing
children’s socio-economic rights. Her argument centres around the notion of
democracy and what Alexander Bickel famously described as the ‘counter-
majoritarian difficulty’ with judicial review. In essence, the book addresses
preconceptions and concerns about the appropriate roles that should be played
by both children and courts in a democratic society, and argues that an active role
for the judiciary in the enforcement of the socio-economic rights of children is
*University of Edinburgh.
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Reviews
© 2014 The Authors. The Modern Law Review © 2014 The Modern Law Review Limited.
520 (2014) 77(3) MLR 513–531

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