chapter  3
16 Pages

Global justice

ByAMARTYA SEN

Ferdinand I’s famous sixteenth-century maxim: “Fiat justitia et pereat mundus” (let justice be done, though the world perish). If the world does perish, there would not be much to admire in this development in the perspective of nyaya, even though the austere niti leading to this result could be defended with very sophisticated arguments of different kinds. The distinction is important, even when niti and nyaya complement each other. For example, setting up many more schools for children in educationally deprived countries would be an important niti, but what would be celebrated in the perspective of nyaya is the achievement that boys and girls are actually educated and have the freedom that comes from that accomplishment. Similarly, reforming the counterproductive patent laws for medicine to make urgently needed drugs against preventable diseases affordable by the poor of the world would be an excellent departure in niti, but it is the actual overcoming of those diseases (through the combination of cheaper drugs, more targeted research, better delivery and use, and so on) that would demand inclusion in the vision of nyaya. It is easy to see that the pursuit of world justice would need a great many

institutional developments and organizational changes around the globe, but underlying our interest in institutional analysis must be some idea of the overall demands of global justice itself. The distinction between nyaya and niti is, thus, important for the subject of world justice. Something similar can, in fact, be said of our understanding of the “rule-of-

law,” the basic idea behind our research initiative. The challenge is not confined only to making sure that the laws, as they exist, apply to all and are followed by all, though these demands too can be very important (as Frederick Marryat put it famously in 1830 in The King’s Own, “there cannot be one law for the rich and another for the poor”). But going beyond that, we must also take on board the need to scrutinize the kind of comprehensive justice (in the sense of nyaya) that emerges from practices of the rule-of-law. As James Heckman, Robert Nelson, and William Neukom point out, it is necessary to examine “fundamental normative questions as what defines a good life and what the ultimate ends of a rule-of-law system might be” (2007). The subject matter of this volume is, thus, both complex and momentous.