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Areas of Specialty: Social and Political Philosophy; Applied Ethics (Business, Environmental); Politics, Philosophy, and Economics

Areas of Competence: Moral Theory; Metaethics; Philosophy of Science

I'm currently working on two long-term projects, Global Justice as Global Freedom, with Bas van der Vossen, under contract with Oxford University Press, and a series of papers on resistance, subterfuge, and sabotage in response to injustice, which I hope eventually to turn into a book called When All Else Fails.

Here is the short description of Global Justice as Global Freedom, from our proposal to OUP:

10,000 years ago, everyone everywhere was poor and at war with his neighbors. This state of affairs seemed permanent. Even Jesus said that the poor will always be with us. But we know now that there is a way to escape extreme poverty and violence.

Still, billions of people continue to suffer in poverty, with millions having barely enough to survive, and millions having less than that. At the same time, political oppression in poor or developing countries remains rampant, while policies in Western or developed countries do little to solve, and often positively contribute to, these problems.

There is a huge and growing philosophical literature discussing these problems of global justice. But this literature is, to be frank, perplexing, frustrating, and at times even embarrassing. It reads to us almost as if there is a conspiracy among philosophers to advocate the very opposite of what mainstream institutional and developmental economists, both Left and Right, recommend. So, for instance, there is overwhelming evidence that economic rights and freedom are necessary for development. And there is extremely strong evidence that global redistribution tends to hurt more than it helps. Economists like Jeffrey Sachs, who are hopeful about redistribution, are in the minority, and even Sachs recommends much more economic freedom than philosophers do. Yet, despite this, most philosophers who write about global justice are either silent about economic rights and liberty, or, worse, try to debunk these rights so they can defend global redistribution.

The debate in global justice is dominated by egalitarian theories. Many focus on the current distribution of resources around the world and propose global redistributive policies, tampering with the global market-economy, redesigning property systems, and so on. Insofar as there are views resisting these proposals, they tend to object that the scope of egalitarian distributive duties is only national, not cosmopolitan. So the debate in philosophy is between global vs. domestic redistributionism, with little concern for what economists have to say.

This book offers an intervention into this debate. We ask, what would a theory of global justice look like if it were informed by the facts, by mainstream development and institutional economics, rather if it were developed in departmental vacuum? We want to cross the quad, so to speak, and produce a theory of global justice that might actually work, that might actually solve the problems. The book thus picks up on, and pushes forward, the recent positive development in the literature away from overly abstract or theoretical discussions, and towards empirically informed, applied proposals.

However, contrary to some other authors who see themselves as adopting an empirically-minded approach (e.g. Thomas Pogge or Nicole Hassoun), we argue that taking into account the most important standard insights of economics and development leads to a theory of global justice as global freedom. We claim that the most important ingredients of a theory of global justice cannot be redistributive in nature or come in the form of modifications of the market or property-based economic system. Instead, its main ingredients are open borders, free trade, the strong protection of individual freedom, and economic rights and property for all around the world.

Our vision of a just world, then, is one in which the benefits of individual freedom and market-society are spread around the globe. This is a perspective that is currently almost entirely absent in the debate on global justice. But it is, we argue, the only one that makes sense in light of standard development economics. That is, we will be defending a type of global libertarianism as a solution to global poverty, not because this is the uniquely correct theory of justice, say on deontological grounds, and not because libertarianism is a good theory of domestic justice, but because global freedom is the only truly humane and workable approach to solving to world poverty. We argue that both on commonsense consequentialist grounds and according to the standard ways of defending human rights, that everyone everywhere has a right of exit, a right to immigrate, a right to trade, and right to possess, use, and profit from productive property.