Law of Peoples and the duty of assistance : Rawls on redistributive justice among people
Author(s)Rothkin, Karen, 1966-
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Political Science.
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In The Law of Peoples (1999) Rawls offers a model of the world, divided into countries without pressures of nationalism, which he calls "peoples." If some of those peoples were liberal democracies, others consult all citizens, though not equally, and others were badly governed, what obligations would the well-ordered countries have to the badly-ordered ones? There is one class of unjust society called "burdened" that is not malicious but lacks the political traditions and institutions needed to be well-ordered, and it may also be unable to care for its citizens. Well-ordered societies owe these burdened ones a "Duty of Assistance" to help them become well-ordered. Rawls thinks that what they most need is political assistance to create just institutions, and perhaps some small, temporary economic aid for acute crises, for two reasons. Economics teaches that large-scale crises like famine or mass migration are caused by (bad) governments, and aren't inevitable consequences of drought. If a just people wants to prevent large-scale disasters, donating large amounts of cash won't help. The permanent cure is just government. Also, he denies that there are any real countries that have too few resources to support their population. If so, poverty or hunger is not inevitable anywhere, and what we call problems of poverty are really symptoms of bad government. I agree that political aid is extremely important. However, I disagree with the unimportance of material assistance. First I show that his empirical ground doesn't support an "institutions only" approach. Second, I argue that (a) primary goods are heterogeneous, and redistribution means different things for different kinds of goods, (b) needs for some of these may be adequately assured by good government, but not just burdened societies can have long-term need for others. The duty of Assistance requires redistribution of more goods, to more types of society than Rawls asserts. Third, Rawls argues that economic redistribution is an important matter for domestic justice, and not a concern at the international level. I challenge one of his illustrations, showing that it is not completely assured by a just domestic society.
Thesis (S.M.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Political Science, 2000.Includes bibliographical references (leaf 74).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Political Science.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology