Global Economic Justice: In Defense of Rawls
Journal of Ethics, Forthcoming
53 Pages Posted: 21 Sep 2006 Last revised: 13 Dec 2007
In The Law of Peoples (hereafter LP), John Rawls does not discuss justice and the global economy at great length or in great detail. What he does say has not been well-received. The prevailing view seems to be that what Rawls says in LP regarding global economic justice is both inconsistent with and a betrayal of his own liberal egalitarian commitments, an unexpected and unacceptable defense of the status quo.
This view is, I think, mistaken. Rawls's position on global or international economic justice is richer, more nuanced, and generally more compelling than his critics have been willing to acknowledge. My aim in this essay is to sympathetically set out and then defend against two common families of objection Rawls's position on global or international economic justice. Objections of the first sort reject Rawls's position as inadequately attentive to the material and economic interests of individual persons worldwide. Objections of the second sort reject it as inadequately attentive to the material and economic interests of well-ordered peoples.
Throughout the paper I develop several arguments implicit in LP but not well-developed there as well as offer some additional arguments of my own consistent with the spirit of LP and Rawls's work more generally. I conclude with some brief remarks expressing two worries I have about Rawls's position - one concerning global public goods, the other concerning the formation of a morally adequate and effective political will within the international context under contemporary conditions.
Keywords: Rawls, Liberalism, International, Global, Economic, Justice, Trade, Egalitarianism, Cosmopolitanism, Human Rights
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