Do Welfare Obligations End at the Boundaries of the Nation State?
RESTRUCTURING THE WELFARE STATE: THEORY AND REFORM OF SOCIAL POLICY, pp. 145-163, A. Follesdal and P. Koslowski, eds., Springer, 1997
26 Pages Posted: 29 Dec 2010
Date Written: 1997
Welfare states tend towards egalitarian principles of distribution of social opportunities and wealth. Thus many citizens hold that a just society should not only allow them to meet their basic needs: the domestic institutions should prevent large inequalities of shares of power and wealth.
This domestic egalitarianism does not exclude a concern for foreigners: to the contrary, it is often coupled with a commitment to global regimes for the prevention of misery and deprivation. However, obligations across borders seem to be less demanding: foreigners should not claim equal shares of income and wealth.The political borders of the state thus seem to delineate a sphere of individuals whose interests ground special, though not exclusive, claims on their shared institutions. This paper focusses on this Priority of Compatriots . The Priority of Compatriots seems difficult to reconcile with the central moral assumption that all persons are owed equal respect. Are we witness to - and perpetrators of - another case of unjustified bias, like sexism and racism, based this time not upon arbitrary 'natural' differences, but upon the social construct of the sovereign state? How can we justify that the social construct of national borders diminish the claims others have on us? If indeed we accept the priority of compatriots, what grounds are there for granting such normative significance to state borders: why should the basic needs of foreigners count, but not their further claims, eg. to equal shares?
Keywords: nation-states, welfare state, egalitarianism, justice, sovereignity
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