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Unformatted text preview: Global Justice and Domestic Institutions 1. Introduction In The Law of Peoples , John Rawls contrasts his own view of global distributive justice—embodied principally in a “duty of assistance” that is one element in the law of peoples—with so-called cosmopolitan theories of distributive justice (e.g., the views of Pogge and Beitz). The latter views, he says, are concerned ultimately with “the well- being of individuals and not the justice of societies“ (119). The contrast is misleadingly put, but indicates a real difference in theoretical approach. I say that it is misleadingly put, because the cosmopolitan will say that he/she is concerned with the justice of the global system of cooperation and not simply with the welfare of individuals, but because the global society is ultimately a form of organized cooperation among individuals , the standards of justice for that system require attention to the well-being of persons, and not simply to how societies fare. Still, the distinction Rawls describes is important. There are real differences between the views both in the conception of the agents in the global society and in the standards of justice that apply to that society. For Rawls, the agents in the global system (the society of peoples) are peoples not individuals: not only does the law of peoples apply to peoples; the compact that determines the content of principles of global justice (the law of peoples) is a compact among those peoples, just as the compact that determines the principles of domestic justice is a compact among individuals, conceived of as free and equal persons. Moreover, the content of the duty of assistance, agreed to in the original compact, reflects the idea that political Global Justice, April 7, 2003, 2 boundaries—here understood as boundaries between peoples—matter in determining what people owe to one another: such boundaries have fundamental moral significance, from the point of view of political morality. How so? 2. Duty of Assistance Intuitively, the duty of assistance is founded on a conception of the self-determination or “political autonomy” of peoples (118). The fundamental idea is that peoples have a claim to be in a position to regulate their collective lives (to determine, for example, how much they want to save and to grow economically). But such self-regulation requires decent or just institutions, both to formulate aims and to carry through on them. But some peoples lack such institutions, for reasons having to do with political culture, or levels of education and skill, or lack of material resources: these are the so-called “burdened peoples” (106). And if a people is thus burdened, then other peoples—even if they are neither responsible for the burdens, nor benefit from them—have a duty to assist the burdened people in attaining those institutions. But—and here is an essential difference between the duty of assistance and the cosmopolitan views—there is no further duty beyond the point of such attainment to promote the well-being of members...
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- Spring '03