Cosmopolitans argue that the account of human rights and distributive
justice in John Rawls's The Law of Peoples is incompatible
with his argument for liberal justice. Rawls should extend his account of
liberal basic liberties and the guarantees of distributive justice to
apply to the world at large. This essay defends Rawls's grounding of
political justice in social cooperation. The Law of Peoples is drawn up to
provide principles of foreign policy for liberal peoples. Human rights are
among the necessary conditions for social cooperation, and so long as a
decent people respect human rights, a common good, and the Law of Peoples,
it is not the role of liberal peoples to impose upon well-ordered decent
peoples liberal liberties they cannot endorse. Moreover, the difference
principle is not an allocative or alleviatory principle, but applies to
design property and other basic social institutions necessary to economic
production, exchange and consumption. It presupposes political
cooperation—a legislative body to actively apply it, and a legal
system to apply it to. There is no feasible global state or global legal
system that could serve these roles. Finally, the difference principle
embodies a conception of democratic reciprocity that is only appropriate
to cooperation among free and equal citizens who are socially productive
and politically autonomous.
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