Introduction:The question above is based on the theory of egalitarianism,the idea ‘that each human being is an equal subject of moral concern’. Distributiveegalitarianism calls for the eradication of inequality in a number ofsignificant areas of distribution of good, such as income.
Egalitarianism isinfluenced by 20th century American philosopher John Rawls’ theorieson social justice. Philosophers such as ThomasPogge have taken these principles further to advance an argument for ‘global distributiveegalitarianism’. They view all individuals as deserving of the same treatmentin a just society; the world as it stands is thus unjust. The extension ofjustice beyond national borders requires an understanding of society andjustice in global terms. This paper focuses on the belief that egalitarian principlesshould be extended in this way to the international system. On the basis of theconvincing arguments made by Rawls, Pogge and Beitz, as well as otherphilosophers I aim to discuss why egalitarianism should be implemented globally. JohnRawls – A Theory of JusticeRawlsdisagreed with the traditional arguments advanced for justice. He believed itwas human ‘intuition’ to distinguish right from wrong.
Therefore, according toRawls we all knew what justice ought to look like. Philosophers such asUtilitarian, Jeremy Bentham alternatively argued for a different type of justicewhere happiness had a numerical value; ‘greatest happiness for the greatestnumber that is the measure of right and wrong’.1 It is possible to make the links between this way of thinking and thetyranny that will likely arise in such a scenario. Whereas, Rawls argued thathuman beings are part of a social contract, from which, we acquire our concepts ofjustice. The characteristics of justice are 1) ‘an equal right to the mostextensive scheme of equal basic liberties compatible with a similar scheme ofliberties for others.’2 This is the concept of the widestpossible liberty consistent with a like liberty for all or more simply,equality of condition.
2)Inequalities should be arranged to everyone’s advantage meaning that noindividual should be blocked from occupying any position. For example,’equality of opportunity’ creates inequalities which would ideally be acceptedas they counter greater inequalities in society. The influence that Rawls’theory has had in modern social justice theories is evident, however, Rawls alsodoes not identify a ‘just society’ which is the main argument advanced by manycritics.
3 Society is the primary subject of justiceand ‘justice’ can be equated to ‘fairness’ within a society’s institutions.Rawls identified a ‘hypothetical original position’. This is a state wherepeople would not know what position in society they would occupy. Given thisscenario, all people would essentially be unbiased to any concepts that areformed within a social contract. Rawls believed if all humans were hiddenbehind a ‘veil of ignorance’ where everyone could choose a just society withoutknowing what position he/she would occupy within the chosen society; everyindividual would prefer a society in which they benefit regardless of theirposition.
This is a logical argument. Furthermore, it means that we cannot knowwhat a just society would look like. We are currently influenced. We are nothidden behind a veil, we are very aware of the difference between us. Race,gender, class – these are all factors that influence our social position.
Thus,contributing to inequality as people naturally prefer laws that work in theirfavor as opposed to ‘fair’ laws. So, Rawls argues, there is no feasible methodof deciding what a just society should look like. SimonCaney – Cosmopolitanism and JusticeCosmopolitanism is the belief that we are all citizens ofthe world and there should be a sense of global justice. The concept of global justicehas traditionally focused on ‘principles of non-intervention and just wartheory’, as opposed to distributive egalitarianism.4 Inthis sense, Caney is correct that most modern societies perceive justice toexclude unjust wars and include government or institutional intervention inorder to create equality. This is the most common way in which equality iscreated in the global community.
However, cosmopolitan philosopher advance thatthese methods of justice need to be taken further. Enlightenment philosopherssuch as Jeremy Bentham and Kant espoused ideas that can be classified ascosmopolitan.5 Contemporary theories ofcosmopolitanism can be classified into three main categories; juridical,ethical and political.
Juridicalcosmopolitanism is a ‘set of claims about the right’. Ethicalcosmopolitanism is a ‘set of claims about the good’. Political cosmopolitanismfocuses on global political institutions, ‘supra-state institutions’.6 Discussion & AnalysisInorder to make a successful case for egalitarianism, I must first address someof the objections known collectively as the ‘asymmetry argument’. Blake,Nagel and Sangiovanni present three variations of the ‘asymmetry argument’.
Theargument is simply that equality is only required within a state because statespossess specific characteristics that connect the people within its borders. Thesecharacteristics are absent on a global scale which these philosophers believemeans equality is not required. Both Blake and Nagel argue that states arecoercive, therefore people within states are bound by the same institutions –people are not coerced in the same way on a global scale. Nagel writes ‘societymakes us responsible for its acts, which are taken in our name’. 7 No such responsibility can be found between states.
Essentially, his argument separates the role that people who belong to asociety play from those ‘outside’.8So, what he describes as ‘positive justice’ happens because we are citizens ofthe same ‘political society’ and if we are not, merely ‘negative justice’ isrequired.9’Universal obligation is exclusive to matters such as humanitarian concerns.10 Inresponse to this I would like to further explain the basis of theaforementioned theories in greater detail. The concept of equality ofopportunity is crucial to egalitarianism. Every individual born on this earthis entitled to the same rights and there is no logical argument to justifyotherwise if we are to consider the veil of ignorance to be true. Before makinghis objection, Miller explains ‘…those who are at the same level of talent andability, and have the same willingness to use them, should have the same prospectsof success regardless of their initial place in the social system, that is,irrespective of the income class into which they are born.’11 Regardlessof their position in society, an individual will ideally receive as much asthey put into the world.
It is a fair argument that people who work hard shouldreceive the rewards of their hard work. In Thomas Pogge’s ‘An Egalitarian Lawof Peoples’, he begins by highlighting Rawl’s ‘theory of justice’ andidentifying the three main principles: ‘institutions maintain the fair value ofthe political liberties’; ‘institutions maintain fair equality of opportunity’;’social institutions are designed to the maximum benefit of people at thebottom.’12 The presentstructure of the world fails to provide equality in various areas including, wealth,education, healthcare and so on.13 Poggegoes a step further than Rawls by demonstrating egalitarian principles inpractice through the ‘Global Resource Tax’.
A tax on individuals withinnational borders for the resources they choose to extract that goes towards theglobal poor, in the present and the future. A method of redistribution thatprovides global justice by raising the cost of consumption without necessarilyplacing limits on consumption. Pogge sets the tax rate at 1% of global GDP($270 billion at the time). Miller continues ‘it matters a great dealwhether one is born a Mexican or a U.S citizen, and so we need to justify to aMexican why we should be entitled to life prospects that are so much superiorto hers merely because we were born on the other side of some line.
’14 Istrongly agree that there is no justifiable reason why an individual in onenation should be considerably better off than an individual in another, at nofault of their own. Birth is like lottery, you do not choose when or where tobe born and in what conditions. By chance, you happen to be born in aparticular country to parents who may be of any social origin. Fabre supportsthis argument when he questions whether individuals are responsible forresiding in a country or for the disadvantage that may arise from living insaid country.15Asserting the position that individuals’ luck at birth may have more to do withother factors than nationality, Fabre instead claims individuals ‘reside in acountry which, for various reasons, is bad at creating and distributingwealth.’ People who just happen to be born in such countries are then subjectedto a life of hardship. This creates a strong case for why the influence thatsuch factors have on social justice is flawed.
We cannot live in a societywhere people are punished or rewarded for the efforts made by those beforethem, especially when the differences are so vast. Justice should be based onfairer grounds. We cannot logically argue that any human being is entitled tomore or less, therefore, equality of opportunity allows for there to be greaterequality. Davidmiller – National Responsibility and Global Justice Milleragrees with many of the arguments made about the inarguable injustice witnessedin the world, however, he disagrees with egalitarianism as an effectivesolution. In ‘Global Egalitarianism’, he objects to egalitarianism. He supportsthat wealthy countries are rich at the cost of exploitation of poorercountries. Therefore, poverty is in many ways at the fault of wealthy countries.16 Yetcontinues ‘the only kind of equality that justice always requires is formalequality: equality between people who are in all relevant respects the same.
’17 Inhis theory, Miller identifies two major problems, the metric problem and the dynamicproblem.18 Inresponse to policies such as, Pogge’s proposed Global Resource Tax, Millerstates ‘they do not seek to equalize access to natural resources.’19Because these solutions require some form of inequality he argues that they donot actually facilitate an egalitarian society. The solutions identified thus strayfrom the issues they are intended to solve. These methods are ‘inappropriate asa way of defining equality of resources at global level’ because not allcountries exist under the same cultural ideals.
The theories advanced tend tofavor ‘western liberal’ ideas of equality.20 Culturalunderstandings determine our measure of equality of opportunity. Miller uses the football pitch vs.
Tenniscourt analogy to highlight this. In one sense, a country that has one and acountry that has the other are unequal because they possess different sportingfacilities. On the other hand, these countries can be seen to be equal if afootball pitch and tennis court are generalized and can be seen asinterchangeable.21 Globally,we cannot rely on a set of cultural values, therefore what is true equality?22 If you look at the ‘quality of education’, twonations may offer education but how can we judge the quality across cultures.The ‘…meaning of education, and the way in which it relates to, or contrastswith, other goods will vary from place to place.
‘ Should some metric values bemerged into more general ones? How is this decided & by who? Miller assertsthat ‘it is essentially the problem of saying what equality of opportunitymeans in a culturally plural world in which different societies will constructgoods in different ways and also rank them in different ways.’23 Miller summarizes his argument with threekey objections.24 1) Whenprivileged more wealthy countries interact with poorer countries to providejustice – they are at an advantage – who is to decide that their form ofjustice is correct? 2) ‘Gross inequality between nations makes it difficult ifnot impossible for those at the bottom end of the inequality to enjoy anadequate measure of self-determination’ 3) Inequalities in wealth makecooperation difficult. For example, the US’ failure to sign the Kyoto agreement.Standing by the belief that the existence of inequalities de-legitimize thisprocess of equality, he adds ‘…since we cannot place the parties behind a veilof ignorance, procedural fairness in practice requires that they should standto gain or lose roughly the same amount when cooperation succeeds or fails, andlarge inequalities make this condition impossible to satisfy.’25 Global distributive Justice as a SolutionWe cannot discredit global egalitarianism completely on thegrounds that we do not operate behind a veil of ignorance and will be unbiasedin administering justice.
Egalitarianism, even to the lesser degree is requiredin the international system. We currently operate in a world where many of theeffects of inequalities are a matter of life or death. Can you tell a personliving in absolute poverty that we as privileged nations cannot restore theinjustices they face such as unemployment or deadly disease because it maycreate some slight inequalities? wouldpeople in wealthy country have to give up thatmuch in order to increase the quality of life of a poor person living in athird world country? From a logical perspective, we cannot deny that asolution does need to be found. More importantly, egalitarianism as a conceptonly functions if it takes global distributive justice into account, as, isargued by Cecile Fabre.26You cannot have true equality if it only applies within borders. As mentionedearlier in this paper, national borders are not significant grounds to enablesuffering beyond them.
We live in an increasingly globalized, cosmopolitansociety therefore we cannot deny the urgency. Conclusion:I strongly agree that luck of birth should not entirely dictateour quality of life. Equality ensures that everyone is entitled to – at aminimum – the basic human needs. However, in a society where people have farmore than basic needs, in fact many have in excess, it is important to ensurethat all individuals are at least guaranteed a fair start in life. Equality ofopportunity ensures this by enabling people from all backgrounds to succeed asa reflection of their efforts. Therefore, egalitarianism is in theory the moraloption. This is generally agreed upon within most nations. However, I agreewith the theories discussed in this essay on the necessity for globalegalitarianism.
Whilst, I also agree with the criticisms of its complexity, Iview the necessity for egalitarianism in global society to hold a greater valuethan the criticisms. I do not believe that the relevant criticisms are strongenough to make a valid point. Ultimately, egalitarian principles should applybetween states.1 J. Bentham.
1843. The Commonplace Book. p142.
2 J. Rawls. 2005.
A Theory of Justice. Harvard UniversityPress. Reissue Edition. p40.3 J. Rawls. 2005.
A Theory of Justice. Harvard UniversityPress. Reissue Edition.4 S. Caney. 2009. Cosmopolitanism and Justice.
p388.5 S. Caney. 2009.
Cosmopolitanism and Justice. p389.6 S. Caney. 2009.
Cosmopolitanism and Justice. p389.7 T. Nagel. 2005. The Problem of Global Justice. p129.
8 T. Nagel. 2005. The Problem of Global Justice. p119.9 T. Nagel. 2005.
The Problem of Global Justice. p127.10 T. Nagel. 2005. The Problem of Global Justice. p130.11 D.
Miller. 2007. National Responsibility and Global Justice.p73.12 T.
W. Pogge. 1994. An Egalitarian Law of Peoples. p195-196.
13 T. W. Pogge. 1994.
An Egalitarian Law of Peoples. p196.14 D.
Miller. 2007. National Responsibility and Global Justice.15 C.
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p147.16 D. Miller. 2007. National Responsibility and Global Justice.p52.17 D. Miller.
2007. National Responsibility and Global Justice.P53.18 D. Miller. 2007. National Responsibility and Global Justice.
p56.19 D. Miller.
2007. National Responsibility and Global Justice.p57.20 D. Miller. 2007. National Responsibility and Global Justice.
p62.21 D. Miller. 2007. National Responsibility and Global Justice.p64-65.22 D. Miller.
2007. National Responsibility and Global Justice.p66.23 D.
Miller. 2007. National Responsibility and Global Justice.p67.
24 D. Miller. 2007. National Responsibility and Global Justice.p76.25 D. Miller.
2007. National Responsibility and Global Justice.p76.26 C. Fabre.
2007. Global Distributive Justice: An EgalitarianPerspective.