Prompt 3 (3020: Global Justice 2016)

What Are Our Duties to Eliminate Resource Inequalities?

Political theorists like Beitz (1979), Singer (1972), Shue (1996), and Caney (2005) (see chapter 4 in Caney 2005) defend various arguments in support of global resource redistribution—emphasizing the relevance of economic interactions and interdependence between wealthy and poor nations, or the ability to assist those in need, or the fundamental right of all to basic subsistence, or some combination of these.  Each author claims that achieving more equitable distributions is not a matter of charity or benevolence, but of moral obligation.  If true, this would mean that citizens and governments of wealthy countries do wrong by the world’s poor when they fail to forfeit a fair portion of their resource shares.  Young (1991), who is sympathetic to distributive justice insists that there is more to justice than simply achieving an equitable distribution of material goods, and she is highly critical of conventional accounts of distributive justice.

Thinking about the diversity of arguments for resource redistribution and Young’s critique of these accounts, do you believe we have a duty to eliminate global resource inequalities?

In answering this question, (a) you must incorporate the writings of two of the authors noted above (in addition to your external sources), (b) you must explain how unequal access to resources can lead to other morally problematic forms of inequality, (c) you must defend what obligations we have—if any—to eliminate these inequalities, and (d) you must discuss one real-world example that illustrates your conclusion.  If your claim is that we have no such obligations, then you still need to satisfy (a), (b), and (d) in developing your argument against the conventional accounts above.

PLEASE NOTE: with these sorts of normative questions that we’ll be engaging throughout the semester, where there is no clear right or wrong answer, you must do more than merely state your opinion.  This would fundamentally fail to satisfy the expectations of these thesis-driven and evidence-based writing assignments.  Your task is to take a stand on the issue and to defend this position by writing an educated and informed response, incorporating specific ideas from the readings that support your thesis.


Filed under 3020_2016: Global Justice

7 responses to “Prompt 3 (3020: Global Justice 2016)

  1. Abigail D.

    Resources See no Nationalities

    Nationality has nothing to do with the bounds of our obligations to other people. That may be a poignant statement, but it is what I firmly believe. Our resources are not something to claim as our own. We had nothing to do with the placement of oil underneath our soil, or the water that flows through our states, so we have no right to be the soul proprietor.

    Beitz claims “[n]ot knowing the resource endowments of their own societies, the parties would agree on a resource redistribution principle that would give each society a fair chance to develop just political institutions and an economy capable of satisfying its members’ basic needs,” (Caney, 108) and with that he makes an extremely fair point. If we were to be unaware of our resource potential we would want to create some sort of redistribution policy in order to prevent unequal opportunities. Growing up in the United States, we have been lucky enough to have a plethora of resources, but what happens if we were not? According to Beitz there should be some sort of cooperation globally in order to have some sort of international economic dependence (Caney, 108).

    We do not all have access to the same resources, and as a result many people are left without water, or without the capacity to deal with an economic crisis (Perch, Watson, Barry, 9). People are born into different climates and should not be chastised for not being born into a society with plentiful resources, or a stable economy. Haiti experienced an earthquake in 2010 that halted the growth of their economy and they are still being affected by it, while Chili experienced a similar earthquake and suffered short-term effects, in comparison (Perch, Watson, Barry, 9).

    Inequalities are not only determined by policies, but they are determined by structural factors (Ghosh, 2013). Changes need to be made in order to eliminate discrimination between societies by ensuring access to basic goods and services (Ghosh, 2013). As humans we have an obligation to each other. By not informing the police of a human with the intent of homicide you are considered at fault, and by not allocating resources to nations in need is also a crime in my book. According to Singer, poverty is obviously bad and we have a duty to prevent such things from happening. “If it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening, without there by sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance, we ought morally, to do it, ” (Caney, 116). The United States is a hegemonic nation and with that comes the responsibly to help whomever is impoverished whether they be outside of our nationality or not (Caney, 116).

    Caney, Simon. Justice beyond Borders: A Global Political Theory. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005. Print.

    Ghosh, Jayati. “Inequality Is the Biggest Threat to the World and Needs to Be Tackled Now | Jayati Ghosh.” The Guardian. 20 Feb. 2013. Web. 16 June 2016.

    Perch, Leisa, Clare Watson, and Bridget Barry. “RESOURCE INEQUALITY: MOVING INEQUALITIES FROM THE PERIPHERY TO THE CENTRE OF THE POST-2015 AGENDA.” Global Thematic Consultation (2012): 1-26. Web.

    • Emma S.

      Distributive Justice: Giving Others What They Want, Not What We Think They Need

      Response to Abby D.

      I concur with Abigail’s perspective that global resource inequality is profoundly unfair. We, as individuals, don’t have a choice about where we were born. However, as a nation, do have the choice about providing assistance to other nations in need. Those political policies are in part determined by public opinion, as well as the applicable laws and regulations constructed and funded by our representatives in the Federal Government. Individuals can make Humanitarian contributions financially and/or by volunteering through NGOs, private charities, and through international service organizations. However, the greatest swell of funds that could be redirected requires specific legislation. Therefore the nation-state determines how it will respond and react to the resource inequality as it manifests in different areas globally. Our allies may be deemed more appropriate recipients of our funds. While this political decision would appear to reflect the nation-state’s best interests, it foregoes the Humanitarian and Cosmopolitan obligations that require our beneficence to all.

      As Singer reminds us, our moral obligations are balanced by our own personal and national needs. We aren’t required to sacrifice our own needs in order to be of service to others. The funding we might give internationally would have to be assessed to ensure that we were not creating moral deficits locally (Caney, 116). We have a moral obligation to others, and simultaneously have a moral obligation to our fellow citizens and to ourselves. If assisting others in crisis only “costs” us a little while providing significant benefit to the people in need, then the Cosmopolitan perspective should be employed. In a situation such as this, we have a moral obligation to offer aide. Beitz states, “… there should be a single global hypothetical contract” (Caney, 109). While this may be difficult to realistically employ, it’s a concept worth noting. If this contract were to hold under real-world circumstances, it would be noble as Abigail implies.

      Not all countries may want foreign aid. Eritrea, one of the world’s poorest nations has refused outside help because as President Afwerki has stated, “We need this country to stand on its two feet… You can’t keep these people living on handouts because that doesn’t change their lives” (Sanders, 2007). It makes sense that nations wish to be self-reliant. However, not all countries are equipped to be self-sufficient. Foreign aid may attach unwanted obligations to the recipient nation. It may inhibit its ability to develop its own resources and prevent successful competition with its donors.

      This is not true in all circumstances. Foreign aid can be supportive of the infrastructure of the poorer nation. It can successfully distribute resources that are needed and desired in an individualized fashion. For instance, in the Caribbean, medical assistance after natural disasters is a recurring need. Aid has been welcomed in the construction of suitable hospitals (McNeil, 2015). The aid matched the perceived needs without undermining its global market abilities. This example illustrates how distributive justice can be performed in a meaning, Humanitarian manner. We do have an obligation to act.

      Caney, Simon. Justice beyond Borders: A Global Political Theory. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005. Print.

      McNeil, Donald G. “Caribbean Hospitals Getting Help for Hurricanes.” The New York Times. 05 Oct. 2015. Web. 18 June 2016.

      Sanders, Edmund. “Eritrea Aspires to Be Self-reliant, Rejecting Foreign Aid.” Los Angeles Times. 02 Oct. 2007. Web. 18 June 2016.

    • Matt S.

      Response to Abby D.

      I agree with your claim that wealthy nations are obligated to allocate some of their resources to other nations. A nation that has power to positively affect millions of people also has responsibility to enact justice as Young states (Young). That being said, I believe that responsibility does not entail equal distribution of all the world’s resources. Wealthy countries should only be obligated to distribute their resources until a baseline of human rights are universally attained. Expecting equal distribution of everything would turn our global economy into a socialist one. There have been many claims that over-regulation can weaken an economy, while open-market policies increase competition and standards of living (Boundless).

      I agree with your claim here “People are born into different climates and should not be chastised for not being born into a society with plentiful resources, or a stable economy.” I think the place someone born is arbitrary within the context of having access to basic resources. This is especially true in our modern world, where we have proven that it’s possible to transport massive amounts of resources during relief efforts like the Haiti disaster. The same urgency to provide aid that was exhibited in the aftermath of the Haiti disaster is clearly lacking when it comes to supplying the entire world with basic resources. There are still over one billion people without access to an ‘improved’ water source, and millions of people die as a result of poor water sanitation (WHO). I also agree with Caney’s statement “If it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening, without there by sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance, we ought morally, to do it, ” (Caney, 116). I believe the modern world at large is morally culpable for not supplying access to these basic needs. It should be the first priority in terms of global justice. All other issues seem peripheral when people are dying of easily preventable diseases. I think providing water, food, shelter and education (in that order) is the baseline in terms of global justice, without these being universally available we certainly live in an unjust world.

      Young, Iris Marion. “Responsibility and Global Labor Justice.” Journal of Political Philosophy: Volume 12, Number 4, 2004, pp. 365–388. Web. 19 June 2016.

      Boundless. “The Disadvantages of Socialism.” Boundless Business. 26 May. 2016. 19 Jun. 2016

      World Health Organization (WHO). “Health through safe drinking water and basic sanitation” 2016. Web. 19 June 2016.

  2. John P.

    As members of a democracy, we hold a common belief of equality. This implies that we should have the same access to opportunities. But the question arises: How does a society design a fair system to ensure distributive justice?

    According to Simon Caney, justice should be divided by nations and that each nation should be responsible for distributing wealth. However, wealthier nations also should share their resources with other countries. For example, Kuwait, an oil-rich country, would be in a position to paralyze other countries by keeping all of its oil to itself. Therefore, this system would be flawed. Caney also says that there are many factors such as determining who would be most deserving of assistance. After the economic system begins to achieve equality, the country must move to a new system to ensure continued motivation.

    Armstrong asserts an opposing principle. He thinks those that contribute more should receive more. This ensures that people will be motivated to contribute to society. This provides for a productive economy and “an equal opportunity to compete with others.”

    I believe that it is very important to have a better method for ensuring an equal distribution of wealth. Our current system has created huge disparities and tremendous suffering. I agree with Caney that it should be under the domain of individual nations. If it is done at the state level, there is too big of an opportunity for failure. Programs such as these need the full force of the federal government behind them.

  3. Briana C.

    I affirm that the most important questions regarding this debate, just like Caney’s chapter articulated, are: Which individuals are entitled to receive goods from which other human beings? Which group of individuals comprise the scope of distributive justice? My argument is in line with Caney in that democratic governments have a motivation to promote the interests of its citizens (Caney 38). While I agree with the cosmopolitan conception that place of birth and origin are arbitrary, and therefore the idea of global justice transcends international borders, I disagree with Beitz’s argument. I do believe that we as citizens of a democratic nation have certain moral obligations to help the rest of the world, especially individuals in developing countries. However, with that being said, I cannot argue that we as sovereign citizens owe certain responsibilities to human beings in other states while so much of our population in the United States of America is so impoverished.

    In accordance with Barry’s opinion, international trade cannot be regarded as a mutually advantageous cooperation, therefore, natural resources do not constitute as viable for everyone around the world. Everyone, yes, should have accessibility to them, but not for free. In the United States for example, there is a huge inequality gap between the wealthy and the poor. I feel that before we allocate all of our resources to outside individuals, we must first address the people who cannot put food on their tables, or cannot afford basic health care. There are so many domestic problems inside America that first need to be fixed before we should just open up all of our resources to the world. If we better our country and bring more equality within our country, then yes we should absolutely help those outside our borders. Because this wealth disparity has grown so much in the past few years, we must first be in line with a more individualistic approach to distributive justice and bring equality to our nation before entirely focusing on countries outside of the United States.

    Caney, Simon. “Cosmopolitanism, Democracy and Distributive Justice”. Global Justice, Global Institutions. Canadian Journal of Philosophy. University of Calgary Press, Alberta, Canada. 2005.

    Mather, Mark, and Beth Jarosz. “The Demography of Inequality in the United States: Introduction.” The Demography of Inequality in the United States: Introduction. PRB, Nov. 2014. Web. 17 June 2016.

    • Misha Z.

      Inequalities in the US are tied to the world economy

      Response to Briana C.

      I disagree with Brianna’s assessment that we must first take care of inequalities in our own country before taking care of inequalities in other countries. I will use the United States as an example. We do have massive income differences in the United States, while the top 10 percent are making more money then ever the “average family income for the bottom 90 percent has been flat since 1980” (Tyson 2014). This trend is unacceptable to be sure but the problems within our own country do not automatically absolve us of our responsibilities to other counties. This is particularly true because US policies have an effect on resource inequalities within other countries. For example US companies have been able to buy land in many countries for various reasons, often for logging (Greenpeace 2015). Much of this land was occupied by indigenous people who are now left without a home and without their traditional resources. Barry argues that international trade does not make nations responsible to each other when it comes to resource distribution. I would argue that it does because trade has a significant effect on how the rich get rich and how the poor become or remain poor. This is true within our own country as well. International trade has pushed many manufacturing communities into poverty because other countries can provide cheaper labor. These are just a few examples of how global trade influences inequalities within our country and beyond our borders. Because of this I do not think that the argument that we must address our own inequalities first is valid. Instead we must address inequalities globally because of their interconnected nature.

      Tyson, Laura. “The Rising Costs of U.S. Income Inequality.” The Huffington Post. 1 Dec. 2014. Web. 20 June 2016.

      “Latest Illegal Logging Investigation: U.S. Companies Still Exposed in the Amazon.” Greenpeace USA Latest Illegal Logging Investigation US Companies Still Exposed in the Amazon Comments. N.p., 09 June 2015. Web. 20 June 2016.

  4. Chandler G.

    Inequality Is A Global Responsibility

    I believe that internationally we have the responsibility to eliminate global resource inequalities. Global income inequality can be defined, broadly, as the income gaps between all people in the planet (Minton). Many analysts believe that inequality should measured in income averages rather than overall wealth. The Gini scale is often used in political science to analyze income inequality specifically. A score of 1 represents total inequality, “where one person has everything and everyone else has nothing, and a score of zero represents total equality. In 2008, the Gini Index sat at 0.71. Inequality is not improving it is in fact increasing. (Hickel).

    The most popular understanding of unequal resources is the concept of a rich child born in a developed country having greater opportunity than a poor child being born in a third world country. Being a citizen of different countries determine how far one can advance economically and institutionally.

    Young’s argument focuses on the disbarment of the distributive paradigm. Young defines this paradigm as, “social justice as the morally proper distribution of social benefits and burdens among society’s members,” (Young 16). She argues that global inequality is more than wealth and income, but rather equal institutional conditions (Young 36). I do believe that there is a correlation between opportunity and a country’s institution. For example, a person in a repressive government such as North Korea does not have the same chance as someone in a country such as Switzerland.

    As Caney did in the first chapter of his book regarding Universalism, discusses the idea of cosmopolitanism in relation to global justice. Cosmopolitans claim that, “at the fundamental level, all persons should be included within the scope of distributive justice,” (Caney 105). I agree, in the context of Young’s definition and the definition regarding income alone, I do not believe that distributive justice should be trapped within borders and nationalities. The cosmopolitan ideology revolves around the idea that we are all global citizens, not citizens of separated countries.

    Some people may argue that “life isn’t fair,” and that equality cannot be achieved, that we are not equal in any aspects of human life. They argue that it is not the responsibility of wealthy countries to help those in poorer countries (Roth). Honestly, I just cannot agree with the idea of not helping someone, when one has the means to do so, just because one does not want to. We are all human beings, and we all have a moral responsibility.

    Hickel, Jason. “Global Inequality May Be Much Worse than We Think.” The Guardian. 8 Apr. 2016. Web. 17 June 2016.

    Minton, Zanny. “For Richer, for Poorer.” The Economist. 13 Oct. 2012. Web. 17 June 2016.

    Roth, Carol. “Why Inequality Isn’t a Problem.” CNBC. N.p., 23 Jan. 2014. Web. 17 June 2016. .

Submit your response here. (To submit a critique reply to a specific post above.)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s