Justice, Stability and Toleration in a Federation of Well-Ordered Peoples
RAWL'S LAW OF PEOPLES: A REALISTIC UTOPIA? pp. 299-317, R. Martin, D. Reidy, eds., Oxford, Blackwell, 2006
17 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2011
Date Written: September 20, 2011
How should the European Union express and promote human rights and solidarity? What is the scope of toleration towards states that violate human rights, within and beyond its borders? And what is the scope of permissible economic inequality across states in such a federation of democracies committed to domestic solidarity?
John Rawls contributed to these topics in The Law of Peoples (LP), which stresses the intertwined issues of toleration, stability and legitimacy that face these political relations across political borders. Can this Law of Peoples shed light on the legitimacy of emerging regional political orders such as, the European Union?
The account offered here seeks to respect state sovereignty even in the face of some human rights violations, and it accepts a degree of material inequality among individuals in different sub-units of a federation. In particular, the European Union may have a differentiated human rights policy, and solidarity does not require a European-wide Difference Principle. The Difference Principle, even if appropriate for domestic justice, need not apply to a federal order.
But the conception of human rights for federations must be more complex than Rawls’ account focused on human rights in a ‘nonfederated’ international order. That difference in domain of application is not a criticism of the Law of Peoples. However, a central weakness of Rawls’ account is that it offers inadequate arguments within its own intended domain of application. International stability for the right reasons requires more than a statement of the limits of toleration about “how far nonliberal peoples are to be tolerated”.
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