When does a rule engender an outcome?

August 5, 2010

Say a rule R establishes some outcome O if it explicitly calls for the realization of O. Say R engenders O if the realization of O is merely a forseeable consequence of R. (Cf. Pogge 1989, p. 38) It seems obvious to judge a rule unjust if it establishes an unjust outcome. It’s perhaps more controversial in some cases but not uncommon to judge a rule unjust if it engenders an unjust outcome.

Suppose someone claims that a rule R (and our enforcement of it) is unjust because the rule incentivizes predatory conduct on the part of state leaders under certain domestic conditions C. (Thomas Pogge and Leif Wenar make such a claim with respect to the “international resource privilege”; see Pogge 2002 and Wenar 2008.) Suppose that R induces the predatory conduct only in the presence of C; in the absence of C, no predatory conduct ensues. In some cases, I want to claim that R does not engender the predatory conduct even if it does generate incentives to engage in predation. Here’s the argument.

Read the rest of this entry »


Diagnosis precedes prescription

August 26, 2009

The title principle seems obvious enough. Which makes it all the more puzzling that most normative political theorists ignore it in practice. Why is this? What are the implications?

Read the rest of this entry »


Online podcast symposium

November 7, 2008

My sovereignty paper is this week’s featured paper in PublicReason’s podcast symposium. If you’re interested, head over there for the discussion.


Help with an example

August 11, 2008

I’m reworking some sections of my sovereignty paper and am stuck trying to think of a case that adequately illustrates a point I’m trying to make. Read on if you’re interested in helping.

Read the rest of this entry »


Making sovereignty safer for human rights

July 29, 2008

I just finished a draft of a paper that begins the task of constructing a moral theory of state sovereignty meant to facilitate the protection of individual human rights. I try to do three things in this paper. First, I try to work out an account of thoroughly non-ideal, or realistic, moral theorizing. I then use this account to evaluate Allen Buchanan’s (2004) theory of recognitional legitimacy, concluding that the view isn’t realistic enough to provide practical political guidance. Finally, I provide a preliminary framework for realistic moral theorizing about state sovereignty, concluding that such theorizing is limited to proposing ways to reform the sovereignty institution that restructure political relationships so that the interests of political leaders become aligned with the protection of individuals’ human rights.

Here’s the paper. If you’ve got the time and/or inclination, any feedback would be much appreciated.


What’s the subject of justice? pt. 2

May 5, 2008

[Read part 1]

In my last post, I presented some concerns about the institutional/interactional distinction with regards to the subject of justice and sketched a potentially new way to distinguish between the claims labeled (1) and (2) in that post. Some further thought has led me to be less confident that the worries I presented should lead us to question the adequacy of the institutional/interactional distinction. Nevertheless, I still think there’s at least one reason to shift from an institutional/interactional distinction to a structural/interactional distinction. So this post will attempt two things. First, I’ll sketch out a reason to think that institutions and structures aren’t coextensive (by arguing that institutions are instances of structure). Second, I’ll offer a reason for thinking that the important distinction is between structuralism and interactionism rather than institutionalism and interactionism. (Note: in the last post, I suggested that we ought to dump the institutional/interactional distinction wholesale in favour of a structural/non-structural distinction. For now, I’ve changed my mind; I think we should turn in the institutional/interactional distinction for the structural/interactional distinction.)

Read the rest of this entry »


What’s the subject of justice? pt. 1

April 28, 2008

By ‘subject of justice’, I mean ‘what claims of justice are about’. So the title question, then, is: what constitutes the content of claims about justice?

Famously, Rawls (1971) answered the question as follows:

The primary subject of the principles of social justice is the basic structure of society, the arrangement of major social institutions into one scheme of cooperation. We have seen that these principles are to govern the assignment of rights and duties in these institutions and they are to determine the appropriate distribution of the benefits and burdens of social life. The principles of justice for institutions must not be confused with the principles which apply to individuals and their actions in particular circumstances. These two kinds of principles apply to different subjects and must be discussed separately. (TJ, sec. 10)

Following Rawls, a distinction has been made in the political philosophy literature between an institutional view and an interactional view. Pogge’s formulation of this distinction in ‘Cosmopolitanism and Sovereignty’ (1992) is representative:

An institutional conception postulates certain fundamental principles of justice. These apply to institutional schemes and are thus second-order principles: standards for assessing the ground rules and practices that regulate human interactions. An interactional conception, by contrast, postulates certain fundamental principles of ethics. These principles, like institutional ground rules, are first-order in that they apply directly to the conduct of persons and groups. (p. 50)

(If you’re interested, two prominent rejections of this distinction are G.A. Cohen, ‘Where the Action Is’ (1995) and L. Murphy, ‘Institutions and the Demands of Justice’ (1998). Pogge, ‘On the Site of Distributive Justice’ (2001) responds. Strictly speaking, Pogge characterizes the interactional view as a view concerning ethics as opposed to justice. But, as I’ll try to make clear below, there could be a way in which both the interactional and institutional views are views of justice.)

To illustrate the distinction, consider the following scenario:
Read the rest of this entry »