chapter  8
23 Pages

The World

In this last chapter I am concerned with a central class of positive duties that transcend political boundaries: duties of global distributive justice. A great deal has been written in recent years on the content, grounds and scope of such duties; my aim here is not to evaluate this work but instead to consider one troubling moral problem that it raises: how stringent are such duties compared to the social justice duties we also owe towards our fellow citizens? This is a complex theoretical question, but it is also an acutely practical one given the enormous disparities in wealth between more affluent parts of the world and poorer ones. No reasonable person is untroubled by the grievous inequalities in life chances between the world’s richer citizens and its poorer ones, but that attitude underdetermines what the best moral response should be. Broadly speaking, the debate is between statist and nationalist writers who hold that our duties to help the global poor, though real, are less weighty and stringent than the duties we owe our fellow compatriots, and cosmopolitan and internationalist writers who hold that a person’s citizenship should make no moral difference in determining what it is that we owe to others. The former view seems unjust if our duties to individuals beyond our borders are substantial, comprehensive and demanding as cosmopolitans maintain. Cosmopolitans attach great moral weight to our common humanity and the equal worth of all persons, and/or they hold we have interactions and connections across the globe which generate powerful duties across political borders, though these interactions and connections stop short of the normatively affirmable valuable relationships of the kind that generate associative duties. 1

It seems to be accepted by everyone that if you believe that citizens owe associative duties to one another, then you must be on the statist and nationalist side. The assumption is that associative duties at the level of the state or nation involve giving priority to the interests of one’s compatriots over the interests of others. Scheffler makes that assumption, as we saw in 1.4, though he maintains that compatriot priority is liable to the distributive objection. 2 Indeed, he claims that the distributive objection is most serious

at the global level, and that the responsibilities that obtain among citizens of wealthy states may seem to provide them ‘with the moral equivalent of a tax shelter’. 3 In this chapter I want to contest this assumption through making a distinction within the scope of priority. Briefly, my argument will be that citizens have duties to one another to further their relationship-dependent interests in democratic respect but not duties to advance each other’s interests across the board at the expense of others’ legitimate interests. Moreover, duties which are grounded in the good of democratic respect need not take priority over other sorts of duties that citizens have. 4 I set out that argument in 8.5 and 8.6, after having interrogated the notion of priority in the next section. In 8.3 and 8.4, I consider two alternative approaches both of which negotiate the priority problem in a different way. Section 8.3 considers the argument that associative duties are additional duties by which compatriots, who have already discharged their global justice duties, top those up by giving something extra to each other. I argue that if compatriots have already delivered to each other all that justice demands, then they cannot owe one another many duties in addition. In 8.4 I examine an argument proposed by Arash Abizadeh and Pablo Gilabert which assimilates associative duties to a cosmopolitan egalitarian perspective. I suggest that this argument only succeeds by distorting a sui generis distinct category of duty.