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Equality, Procedural Justice, and the World Trade Organization

Adam S. Chilton

University of Chicago - Law School

Ryan W. Davis

Princeton University


Intercultural Human Rights Law Review, Vol. 7, 2012

How can the moral concern for equality be pursued within international institutions? In this paper we propose a novel way of understanding the relationship between global justice and specific reforms in international organizations. Political philosophers have carried out a sustained debate over whether equality is morally important within international justice, but they have not attempted to specify any moral principles for guiding its implementation. Instead, the prevailing philosophical debate has centered on whether a norm of distributive equality applies in international contexts at all, and has largely assumed that if so, then whatever egalitarian principle or principles apply in domestic politics also apply internationally. However, we provide reasons for skepticism that egalitarian principles can simply be exported from one legal or political context to another. We argue that principles must be developed in response to specific institutional settings. This suggests that a theory of justice must begin by finding distributive principles applicable to particular international institutions.

To begin to address this need, we develop a procedural egalitarian theory of international distributive justice, which we apply to the World Trade Organization. Because the trade-related economic gains it facilitates are distributively significant, the WTO offers a core locus of investigation for theories of international justice. We hold that the purpose of equality within institutions is to protect persons from the prospect of wrongdoing. We thus propose an instrumentalist egalitarian approach that requires institutions secure their members from being wronged. Finally, we describe procedural reforms at the WTO that would plausibly satisfy the normative desiderata we set forward. These reforms share a general focus on using informal procedures to help establish a realistic right to equal participation by all WTO members. Achieving this, we believe, would capture the moral advantages outlined in our theory while remaining faithful to the requirement of fairness that is central to egalitarian philosophical thought.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 51

Keywords: Global Justice, Political Theory, World Trade Organization

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Date posted: November 29, 2012  

Suggested Citation

Chilton, Adam S. and Davis, Ryan W., Equality, Procedural Justice, and the World Trade Organization (2012). Intercultural Human Rights Law Review, Vol. 7, 2012. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2182030

Contact Information

Adam S. Chilton (Contact Author)
University of Chicago - Law School ( email )
1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
HOME PAGE: http://www.adamchilton.org

Ryan W. Davis
Princeton University ( email )
22 Chambers Street
Princeton, NJ 08544
United States

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