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An argument for a libertarian understanding of international justice

An argument for a libertarian understanding of international justice

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An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Declan Curtis. Originally submitted for International Justice at University College Dublin, with lecturer Graham Finlay in the category of International Relations & Politics
An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Declan Curtis. Originally submitted for International Justice at University College Dublin, with lecturer Graham Finlay in the category of International Relations & Politics

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 29, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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02/04/2014

 
Any understanding of international justice must be based upon justice betweenindividuals, as societies (whether they are international, national, local or based uponsmaller family groups) are made up of individuals. Therefore, in order to understandinternational justice, it is first necessary to understand justice between individuals.In his
Two Treatises of Government 
, John Locke states that ‘every man has a property in his own person.’
1
This essay will defend Locke’s statement as a basicunderstanding of justice and apply the conclusions that follow to the area of international justice. To achieve this thesis, this essay will be divided into fivesections. Section I will discuss what the term justice means and offer a defence of  justice as being derived from self-ownership. Section II will place limits on whatrequirements persons have in terms of justice as it has been discussed in section I. Insection III, this essay will continue by constructing a positive account of justice basedon our principle of self-ownership. Section IV will show how our concept of justicemust inform how we conceive international justice. Finally, section V will consider a possible objection to the conclusions reached in this essay, namely that the concept of  justice put forward by this essay fails to incorporate any notion of positive freedom.IBefore any argument can take place it is necessary to define what the term justicemeans. This essay understands justice as the act of rendering to each what is due. Thisdefinition comes from
The Digest of Justinian
in which it is stated that: ‘justice is theset and constant purpose which gives to every man his due.’
2
Therefore, justice is amatter of finding out what one deserves or, as Garret Barden and Tim Murphy state:
1
 
Locke, John,
Two Treatises of Government and A Letter Concerning Toleration
, London: YaleUniversity Press, 2003, p. 111.
2
 
The Institutes of Justinian
, translated by J.B. Moyle, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1896, p. 3.
‘Iustitia est consstatn et perpetua voluntas ius suum cuique tribuens
.’ This is translated by GarrettBarden and Tim Murphy as: ‘[T]he virtue of justice is the constant and enduring will to render to eachwhat is due.’ Barden, Garrett and Murphy, Tim,
 Law and Justice in Community
, Oxford: OxfordUniversity Press, 2001, p. 40.
1
 
The virtue of justice is the settled determination to render toeach what is due. The practice of the virtue of justice demandsthat one knows what is due, and so the question of justice isalways of this form: What belongs to whom?
3
But how is justice to be understood? Should we understand justice in terms of acurrent time slice notion or should justice be understood more historically.
4
 Consider the following scenario:1.At t
2
P is in possession of a wallet.2.At t
3
Q approaches P and demands that he hand over the wallet. P refuses.3.Both P and Q ask a third party [R] to adjudicate onthe matter.4.R has witnessed premises (1), (2), and (3) and judgesthat P should retain the wallet. R has made this judgement, as he believes it to be a just adjudicationof the events that took place between t
2
and t
3
.5.However, at t
4
R views CCTV footage of P pick  pocketing Q at t
1
. At this time P takes the walletfrom Q’s pocket.6.R now makes a new judgement that the walletshould be returned to Q.This situation shows that justice requires investigation so that ‘we may render to eachwhat is due.’ That is to say, one cannot assert a maxim such as ‘justice requires thatall receive equal shares from the common holdings.’ One must find out what each person deserves in each individual situation. If justice is the ‘constant purpose whichgives to every man his due’, then we must investigate what each man is due. To do sootherwise can result in situations that cannot be called just.
53
 
Barden, Garrett and Murphy, Tim,
 Law and Justice in Community
, Oxford: Oxford University Press,2001, p. 41.
4
 
To borrow language from Robert Nozick. Nozick, Robert,
 Anarchy, State and Utopia
, Oxford:Blackwell Publishing, 2006, p. 153.
5
 
Consider once again the scenario described on page 2. If justice were a purely current time slicenotion then R could rule that P should keep the wallet as P is now in possession of the wallet, or that Pand Q should split the wallet as they both claim ownership. But this notion of ‘justice’ cannot be
2
 
This historical understanding of justice inevitably leads to the question: Howcan we discover what is justly due to each person? Or ‘What belongs to whom?’ Thisquestion can be better understood by way of analysing John Locke’s statement that‘every man has a property in his own person.’
6
Consider the following:1.Personhood is a private, first person existence.2.Existing as a person entails ownership of one’s self,as to be a person is to own that existence. It is to
be
that existence.
7
considered just as P has gained possession of the wallet by stealing it from Q. Consider the followingargument:1.If P has acquired W by unjust means then P cannot justly hold W.2.P has acquired W by unjust means.Therefore:3.P cannot justly hold W.Furthermore, justice is necessarily historical as all judgements are based upon the situation that precedes the judgement. A judgement, by definition judges some scenario, therefore the scenario isalways first in order and the judgement comes after. Therefore, the notion of current time slice justiceis in itself incoherent. It is only a matter of how far back one is willing to, or can, investigate that limitsthe historical nature of justice. The following clarifies the point that justice is necessarily historical:1.Justice requires judgement, as to apply the concept of justice to any situition, one must judgeit to be just.2.A judgement necessarily occurs later in time than the matter it judges. One cannot make a judgement without something existing upon which to make judgement.Therefore:
3.
Judgement Q necessarily follows situition P. (P
Q)
4.
Assume situition P
2
at time t
2
is caused by P
1
at time t
1
. (P
1
P
2
)
5.
If (4) is true then it follows that any judgement of the justice of P
2
necessarily rests upon the judgement of justice of P
1
.6.(4) is true.Therefore:
7.
Any judgement of the justice of P
2
necessarily rests upon the judgement of justice of P
1
.Therefore:8.Judgements are necessarily historical.Therefore:9.Justice is necessarily historical, as justice entails judgements and judgements are necessarilyhistorical.
6
Locke, ibid, p. 111.
7
 
Some may wish to question this premise, as there is no straightforward logical connection between being and ownership. A charge of equivocation may be claimed on the move between premise 2 and 3.However, I argue that this is not a problem if one defines ownership, not as a moral relation between parties, but as a metaphysical one. That is to say:1. Persons are necessarily embodied (in a single body).2. No other person may inhabit that body.Therefore:3. To exist, persons must inhabit, and must be consider as owning, their body.If this ownership clause is not inserted here, then I fail to see how any moral implication could bedrawn on any behaviour. For, we only consider an agent as being morally responsible for an act if hechooses to do that act. For a moral judgement to be made he must be assigned ownership of his actions,
3

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