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Do We Owe the Global Poor Assistance or Rectification?


A central theme throughout Thomas Pogge's pathbreaking World Poverty and Human Rights is that the global political and economic order harms people in developing countries, and that our duty toward the global poor is therefore not to assist them but to rectify injustice. But does the global order harm the poor? I argue elsewhere that there is a sense in which this is indeed so, at least if a certain empirical thesis is accepted. In this essay, however, I seek to show that the global order not only does not harm the poor but can plausibly be credited with the considerable improvements in human well-being that have been achieved over the last 200 years. Much of what Pogge says about our duties toward developing countries is therefore false.

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Alberto Alesina and David Dollar , ‘Who Gives Foreign Aid to Whom and Why?Journal of Economic Growth 5 (2000), pp. 3364

Daron Acemoglu , Simon Johnson , and James Robinson , ‘The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation,” American Economic Review 91, no. 5 (2001), pp. 13691401

Michael Blake , “Distributive Justice, State Coercion, and Autonomy,” Philosophy & Public Affairs 30, no. 3 (2001), pp. 257–97.

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Ethics & International Affairs
  • ISSN: 0892-6794
  • EISSN: 1747-7093
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