Copp, David — International Justice and the Basic Needs Principle

Work Cited
Copp, David. “International justice and the basic needs principle.” In The Political Philosophy of Cosmopolitanism, edited by Gillian Brock and Harry Brighouse, 39-54. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

“Justice requires a state in favourable circumstances to enable its members to meet their basic needs throughout a normal lifespan”: the “basic needs principle” (39).
How to expand the “basic needs principle” internationally?
International distributive justice and the begning world
Conception of Justice:
1. Injustice can be corrected.
2. There is a duty to correct it, it is some agent’s responsibility.(40)
Let’s imagine a world divided into states, each being internally well-ordered and just and there have been no act of injustice between the countries: “Benign World”.
There are however still injustices in it that consists in or supervenes on relevant differences in life prospects, where such differences are due to inequality in the distribution of resources (40).
The basic needs principle
Justice requires a state in favourable circumstances to enable its members to meet their basic needs throughout a normal lifespan: the “basic needs principle”.
Justice also requires equality of opportunity and the basic liberties.
The principle demand intervention in the economy.
Normal lifespan = refers to the requirements of autonomous agency.
Enable = society is required to do the best it can, given what reasonable people would find acceptable.
Favourable circumstances = a state is in a relevantly favourable circumstance if: 1. it is economically in a position to enable its members to meet their basic needs, 2. It is able to do so by permissible means (not violating moral principles).
State, quasi-state, and society

“… Only the state or the society acting through the state as its agent is appropriately held responsible for discharging the duty regarding basic needs” (44).

Only the state is in a position to act as an agent of the society.
In a state of nature there is no possibility to discharge the duty regarding basic needs. In this situation a society has the duty to establish a state in order to gain the ability to discharge this duty.
rationales for the basic needs principle
·    The principle can be grounded in the moral importance of autonomous agency, given that, the basic needs are the requirements of autonomous agency.
·    The principle can also be supported by a Rawlsian argument: in the Original Position, people would choose a “difference principle of basic needs”.
·    Justice based on sufficiency rather than equality.s
·    Nozick’s Lockean proviso.

Injustices in the begnign world

“The basic needs principle applies to the situation in the world as a whole, assuming there is a global society. I think it is plausible moreover, that there is a global society” (Copp 2005, 47):

global economic and trade institutions, global political institutions, communities are not isolated from one another.
Even if every country in the world satisfies the basic needs principle, it is possible that the global society as a whole does not satisfy the principle.
International justice under a global state
A state is the system of institutions that governs a territory in which a legal system is in force, and that administers and enforces the legal system and carries out the programs of the government.
For a global state to exist there would have to be a global legal system and institutions to administer it.
Could be a unitary entity or a federation of states. (48)

“Transparency view”: “… the global state’s duty is to deal directly with the needs of individual people.” (48)

“Divided responsibility view”: “… the individual subordinate states have the primary responsibility to ensure that their residents are able to meet their needs. The global state is required only to ensure that the subordinate states have sufficient resources to be able to meet this primary responsibility.” (48)

The divided responsibility view is the more natural.
International justice in the absence of a global state
The Benign World should be able to organize itself into a global state: a quasi-state for example. “… there would be an entity capable of acting on behalf of the global society, although not perhaps with the effectiveness of a state.” (50)
If states in the state of nature are not in favourable circumstances, then all states have a duty to work together to create a global state (or quasi-state) that would be able to discharge the duty regarding basic needs.
Objections
1.    Global society is not “thick” enough to sustain duties of justice:
Some argue that there are only requirements of distributive justice within a group that shares a culture or set of “common meanings” (Walzer). Copp disagrees, but agrees that the basic need principle would not apply to the global population if that global population did not constitute a society. Requirements of global justice is thus a contingent matter.
2.    A global state would not be viable, or would not be a force for justice:
Nagel, Rawls, Kant agree that a global state is not possible. However, Copp only argues in favour of some kind of federation, to which Rawls and Kant agree that it might be conducive of world peace.
3.    Idea of a division of moral responsibility:

4.    Optimism about politics

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About Frank Ejby Poulsen

Education: MRes History, European University Institute, Florence, Italy. MSc Political Science, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. LLM International law and EU law, University of Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne, France. Academia Profile: http://eui.academia.edu/FrankEjbyPoulsen Languages: French: Mother tongue Danish: C2 English: C2 German: B1-B2 Spanish: A2-B1 Norwegian and Swedish: reading comprehension
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