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About this book

Do we have moral duties to people in distant parts of the world? If so, how demanding are these duties? And how can they be reconciled with our obligations to fellow citizens?

Every year, millions of people die from poverty-related causes while countless others are forced to flee their homes to escape from war and oppression. At the same time, many of us live comfortably in safe and prosperous democracies. Yet our lives are bound up with those of the poor and dispossessed in multiple ways: our clothes are manufactured in Asian sweatshops; the oil that fuels our cars is purchased from African and Middle Eastern dictators; and our consumer lifestyles generate environmental changes that threaten Bangladeshi peasants with drought and famine. These facts force us to re-evaluate our conduct and to ask whether we must do more for those who have less.

Helping students to grapple with big questions surrounding justice, human rights, and equality, this comprehensive yet accessible textbook features chapters on a variety of pressing issues such as Immigration, International Trade, War, and Climate Change. Suitable for undergraduate and graduate students alike, the book also serves as a philosophical primer for politicians, activists, and anyone else who cares about justice..

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

Abstract
To those of us who grow up in affluent Western countries, the world can feel very small. During our childhoods, the boundaries of our home towns constitute, for the most part, the borders within which we live our lives. Our experiences are narrowly circumscribed, and we take them to be representative. To the extent that we think about other people, we imagine them living lives not dissimilar to our own. Often, the trips we take abroad reinforce rather than undermine these perceptions. Our parents take us on holidays to other rich societies or to tourist enclaves within poorer countries where we are cut off from the lives of the natives. We are perhaps vaguely aware of a wider, less familiar world, but our vision of it remains hazy and obscured.
James Christensen

2. Rights

Abstract
A conception of justice identifies ends that we should endeavour to realize and proposes moral principles to guide the conduct of those it addresses. It accords “rights” and specifies the kinds of duties that those rights impose upon others. A conception of global justice aspires to identify the moral principles that should govern the global domain. It begins with the thought that if some entities (such as individual human beings) possess rights, those rights may generate duties that extend beyond the borders of nations and states. This book is devoted to exploring the ongoing debate over what the content of a plausible conception of global justice might look like.
James Christensen

3. Poverty

Abstract
Since the end of the Cold War, it has become less common to speak of a Third World. When the Berlin Wall fell, so did the Second World with which we had previously contrasted the Third and the First. In the new millennium, we often speak instead of a single “global village”. This new terminology has its virtues: it reflects the economic, cultural, and political integration that constitutes contemporary globalization. But it also has a downside. It obscures a reality that the older nomenclature made more vivid, a reality in which the least advantaged people on the planet live lives far removed from those enjoyed by the richest. In the poorest parts of our “global village”, 766 million people survive each day on less than what could be purchased in the US for $1.90. Almost 6 million children die before reaching the age of five, and nearly half of these children lose their lives because they do not have enough food. Between 2014 and 2016, 795 million people experienced chronic hunger. Roughly 880 million people live in slums and almost 700 million of these lack adequate sanitation. Approximately 156 million young people in poor countries are classed as “working poor”. This means that they are in paid employment but also live in extreme poverty (on less than $1.90 a day) or in moderate poverty (on no more than $3.10 a day).
James Christensen

4. Inequality

Abstract
It is often said that the rich can and should do more to end severe poverty worldwide. In the previous chapter, we saw how this claim is supported by robust philosophical argument. But even if world poverty were eradicated, some people would remain considerably worse off than others; the end of global poverty would not mean the end of global inequality. The aim of this chapter is to consider whether and why global inequality matters.
James Christensen

5. Nationalism

Abstract
In the previous chapter, we considered the case for extending egalitarian principles to the global domain. We also encountered several (unsuccessful) objections to such an extension. These objections were each built around an attempt to identify a morally relevant distinction between the claims of foreigners and those of our compatriots. In this chapter, we shall examine several further attempts to identify such a distinction. However, whereas the arguments in Chapter 4 appealed to allegedly significant features of states (and, in particular, to their coercive and cooperative natures), the arguments to be addressed here focus on allegedly significant features of nations. In other words, this chapter considers whether the conception of global justice that we have been constructing can survive an encounter with the political morality of nationalism. We will ask whether that conception is compatible with nationalist ideals and, if it is not, which should yield: nationalism or our conception of global justice.
James Christensen

6. Immigration

Abstract
While this book was being written, Donald Trump took office as the 45th president of the United States. One of Trump’s most headline-grabbing campaign pledges was his promise to build a wall along the US-Mexico border, a proposal which foreshadowed a more general crackdown on immigration initiated in the first months of his presidency. This crackdown has been controversial among Americans, and much of the resultant debate has focused on the question of whether tighter border controls serve the national interest. Some Americans resent the presence of immigrants in their country; others recognize the contribution that immigrants make to their economy and culture and worry that reduced immigration is contrary to their interests. This way of framing the debate is not atypical. In popular discourse about immigration, the right of a political community to exercise discretionary control over its territorial borders is standardly taken for granted, and the contested issue is how best to exercise that right in order to enhance the community’s prospects. Disagreement centres on what is good for the country, not on whether the good of the country is the only, or most relevant, consideration.
James Christensen

7. Trade

Abstract
The previous chapter was devoted to addressing ethical questions concerning the regulation of state borders. The current chapter continues that task by considering the issue of international trade. As we shall see, in important respects, the debate around trade resembles the debate around immigration. In both cases, a central question is whether states are ever morally required to open their borders or whether it can be morally permissible (or even obligatory) to impose certain restrictions on the flow of people, goods, or services from the outside. In both cases, there is (i) an open-borders argument that appeals to the interests of the world’s poor, (ii) a closed-borders argument that appeals to the interests of the world’s poor, and (iii) a closed-borders argument that appeals to the interests of unskilled workers in developed countries. Addressing these arguments will help us to morally assess the current system of world trade, which is governed by the World Trade Organization (WTO).
James Christensen

8. Climate

Abstract
Through agriculture and industry, the human species has repeatedly sought to transform its environment. We have mined and processed the earth’s resources, cultivated the land, and constructed vast cities in once-desolate places. These efforts reflect a conscious endeavour to fashion a world more hospitable – more conducive to human habitation – than the one inherited by our ancestors. But scientists now believe that these efforts are also altering our planet in ways other than those we envisaged. Of course, it has never been a secret that human industry can have unintended consequences for our surroundings. Nineteenth-century Londoners could have been no less conscious of the fumes choking their streets than are the contemporary residents of Shanghai and Beijing. But there is now compelling evidence to suggest that the side effects of our industrial and agricultural practices are altogether more profound than was once widely recognized. Through their uncoordinated activities, human beings have been inadvertently and haphazardly interfering with the natural systems that regulate our planet’s climate. As Stephen Gardiner has written, humans are unintentionally altering “the underlying dynamics of the planet’s climate”, thereby tampering with the processes that serve as “the basic life-support system both for themselves and all other forms of life on Earth”.
James Christensen

9. War

Abstract
Throughout this book, we have encountered a variety of ways in which members of one political community can adversely affect the life prospects of those in another (e.g., by excluding would-be immigrants, restricting trade, and emitting greenhouse gases). In this chapter, we turn to one of the most conspicuous and dramatic ways in which harms can be inflicted across national borders, namely, through acts of war. We shall consider under what conditions, if any, war can satisfy the requirements of justice.
James Christensen

10. Intervention

Abstract
As I write this book, civil war rages in Syria. The conflict, which began with the violent repression of peaceful protesters in 2011, pits the despotic regime of Bashar al-Assad against a variety of rebel groups (such as the Syrian Democratic Forces) and also against terrorist organizations like Daesh. Since the war began, foreign parties have intervened militarily on multiple occasions. For example, Britain, France, and the US have conducted airstrikes against oil installations controlled by Daesh and also against government weapons facilities. The case for some of these interventions has been couched in terms of self-defence, as politicians in the West have emphasized the importance of protecting their citizens from terrorist threats developing abroad. But intervention has also been defended on humanitarian grounds. Some commentators have argued that military action should be taken in order to protect the basic rights of the Syrian people.
James Christensen
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