A Problem for Global Egalitarianism

In: Journal of Moral Philosophy
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  • 1 Canada

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Do the demands of egalitarian justice extend to the international realm? Some believe that a positive answer follows from a simple line of reasoning: where a child happens to be born is a morally arbitrary fact; accordingly, it shouldn’t unduly influence her life prospects, as will inevitably be the case unless economic inequalities between countries are ironed out. I argue that this style of argument overlooks an important problem concerning the extent to which a person can unilaterally impose enforceable obligations on others by choosing to have a child. I maintain that properly egalitarian duties of distributive justice only arise when this problem of unilateral imposition has been solved. I further argue that solving the problem requires robust political institutions that do not exist in the international context—institutions instantiating a version of what John Rawls calls pure procedural justice, to ensure that the aggregate result of individual reproductive choices is acceptable to all.

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