Fortune and Fairness in Global Economic Life

In: Journal of Moral Philosophy
Author: Aaron James1
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This paper develops John Rawls’s famous objection to the system of natural liberty as against the contemporary system of international trade. Even as “dynamic” policies have proven successful in several recent development success stories, the current system enforces a “static,” laissez-faire system of comparative advantage that threatens to consign poorly-endowed countries to a low-productivity, low-income destiny in agriculture and raw materials. I discuss two very different fairness arguments in favor of allowing and encouraging “dynamic,” pro-development polices: an argument from “structural equity” and an argument from “equity of fortune.” I suggest that the former is of more central importance, and that the difference between the two kinds of fairness argument shows why Rawls’s original objection to the (domestic) system of natural liberty does not imply “luck egalitarianism.”

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