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Hum Rights Rev (2008) 9:435–464

DOI 10.1007/s12142-008-0063-5

Are There Any Global Egalitarian Rights?

Alexander Brown

Published online: 21 March 2008
# Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2008

Abstract This article considers whether or not there are any global egalitarian rights
through a critical examination of the political philosophy of Ronald Dworkin.
Although Dworkin maintains that equal concern is the special and indispensable
virtue of sovereigns and the hallmark of a fraternal political community, it is far from
obvious whether the demands of equality stop at state borders. While some scholars
in the field—most notably Thomas Pogge—posit the existence of negative rights in
relation to social and economic inequalities at the global level, here I try to defend
the existence of positive global egalitarian rights by appealing to Dworkin’s own two
principles of ethical individualism. I also set out the framework for a version of what
I call global luck egalitarianism based on Dworkin’s equality of resources and try to
respond to David Miller’s charge that comparative principles of justice do not apply
at the global level.

Keywords Dworkin . Global Justice . Egalitarianism . Rights


The aim of Ronald Dworkin’s powerful work on liberal equality over the past three
decades has been to demonstrate how abstract rights to equal concern and respect
can be interpreted in such a way as to imply assistance for unlucky members of the
political community but at the same time a healthy degree of freedom and
responsibility for citizens generally. Whilst equal concern and respect may not be

A. Brown (*)
Department of Political Science, University College London, 29/30 Tavistock Square,
London WC1H 9QU, UK

436 A. Brown

something that people owe to each other in their personal lives, it is something that
sovereigns owe to their citizens. It is, in that sense, the sovereign virtue.1 Many parts
of Dworkin’s theory have been subject to critical scrutiny—not least his influential
distinction between luck and choice.2 However, I want to focus on a different part of
his argument; one that has implications for the scope of egalitarian rights.
During the same period of time in which Dworkin has been perfecting his theory
of liberal equality for life within sovereign states, there has been increasing support
among a number of political philosophers for the view that when making
comparisons of people’s lives for the purposes of delivering social and economic
justice that comparison should be made between people in general rather than
between the members of narrow political jurisdictions such as states.3 Thus far,
Dworkin has been reluctant to make a similar move. This can be explained in terms
of his understanding of equality as a bounded value. For Dworkin, it is dependent on
the fact that governments claim a monopoly on the exercise of coercive power over
their citizens that such persons can reasonably claim a right to equal concern and
respect. What is more, it is only within true political communities that citizens have
a responsibility to treat each other as equals, and this responsibility does not extend
to the members of other political communities. In so far as there are no international
associations that share these characteristics of sovereign power and genuine
community (or fraternity), there are no such things as global rights to equal concern
and respect. It seems to me, however, that there is more to be said on the matter than
this initial analysis suggests, as the aforementioned reasons for thinking that there
are no such things as global egalitarian rights are far from conclusive. Two key
aspects of my critique will be that in limiting the demands of egalitarian justice to
certain kinds of political community Dworkin (1) makes controversial assumptions
about the best interpretation of the two principles of ethical individualism upon
which these demands are based and (2) fails to take sufficiently seriously the point
that membership within political communities is itself a matter of brute luck.
The rest of the article is structured as follows. In the next section, I introduce
Dworkin’s abstract egalitarian rights. I then detail his grounds for thinking that the
scope of these rights is domestic as opposed to global and outline three possible
replies. The first is to insist that the world currently does contain an association with
the requisite coercive power and sense of fraternity to get global rights to equal
concern and respect off the ground. I shall contend that the first strategy is not very
hopeful because even the leading candidate (the United Nations) fails to satisfy the
conditions of sovereignty and fraternity defended by Dworkin. I then turn to a second
reply which is to deny that sovereignty and fraternity are necessary conditions for the

Ronald Dworkin, Sovereign Virtue (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000).
For a critique of Dworkin’s way of making the choice/luck cut, see G. A. Cohen, ‘On the Currency of
Egalitarian Justice’, Ethics, 99 (1989): 906−944; ‘Expensive Tastes Rides Again’, in J. Burley (ed.)
Dworkin and His Critics (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2004). Dworkin’s replies to Cohen can be found in
his Sovereign Virtue, ch. 7 and ‘Ronald Dworkin Replies’ also published in Dworkin and His Critics.
See Charles Beitz, Political Theory and International Relations (Princeton: Princeton University Press,
1979), part III; Henry Shue, ‘The Burdens of Justice’, Journal of Philosophy, 80 (1983): 600−608;
Thomas Pogge, Realizing Rawls (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989), ch. 6; Brian Barry ‘Humanity
and Justice in Global Perspective’ in his Liberty and Justice: Essays in Political Theory Volume 2 (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1991), pp. 195−203.

Are there any global egalitarian rights? 437

existence of such rights given the nature and degree of economic and social interaction
between states. Here, I critically assess the work of John Rawls, Charles Beitz and
Thomas Pogge. I will argue that these approaches to international justice, though not
entirely flawed, do fall short of showing adequate concern for the fate of the globally
disadvantaged. A third reply posits the existence of global rights to equal concern and
respect that are positive in nature and which transcend the existence of manmade
artifices, fraternal ties and economic interdependence. I try to defend these rights by
drawing on a modified interpretation of Dworkin’s own two principles of ethical
individualism (or human dignity) and a more holistic interpretation of the demands of
luck neutralisation. Finally, I tentatively set out some principles of international
distributive justice that might flow from these rights.

Dworkin’s Abstract Egalitarian Rights

Few political philosophers nowadays seem able to make do without talk of rights.
Dworkin is no exception. In his Taking Rights Seriously, he sets out to construct a
liberal conception of equality, but does so by first stating the following abstract
egalitarian right (which is actually two rights combined).
We might say that individuals have a right to equal concern and respect in the
design and administration of the political institutions that govern them. This is a
highly abstract right. [...] The right to equal concern and respect [...] is more
abstract than the standard conceptions of equality that distinguish different
political theories.’4
While the utilitarian, conservative or Marxist might also regard abstract rights to
equal concern and respect as being central to his or her own view, Dworkin cleaves
to the following liberal conception:
Government must treat those whom it governs with concern, that is, as human
beings who are capable of suffering and frustration, and with respect, that is, as
human beings who are capable of forming and acting on intelligent conceptions
of how their lives should be lived. Government must treat people not only with
concern and respect, but with equal concern and respect. It must not distribute
goods or opportunities unequally on the ground that some citizens are entitled
to more because they are worthy of more concern. It must not constrain liberty
on the ground that one citizen’s conception of the good life of one group is
nobler or superior to another’s.5
In order to asses this position it is imperative to recognise the distinction between
claiming that people possess abstract egalitarian rights against their own government
and political community and claiming that people possess abstract egalitarian rights
against any government and political community around the world. This is a
distinction between domestic and global egalitarian rights. Dworkin makes the first

Ronald Dworkin, Taking Rights Seriously (London: Duckworth, 1977), p. 180.
Ibid., pp. 272−273.

To be sure. 1. for example. objective attitude toward them all. No government is legitimate that does not show equal concern for the fate of all those over whom it claims dominion and from whom it claims allegiance. he contrasts universal with special rights. expresses the thought by stating that ‘an impartial principle will give rise to distinct burdens of justification between individuals who share liability to the coercive power of the state. Political Power The issue of power is briefly addressed in the introduction to Sovereign Virtue. 94n.438 A. That being said. is the special and indispensable virtue of sovereigns. at the level of domestic politics. 6. one of these nations has the upper hand by virtue of its possession of greater 6 Ibid. As I have already mentioned.7 A political community that exercises dominion over its own citizens. at odds with each other for centuries. a citizen can claim these domestic rights only against his or her own government and not against other governments. must take up an impartial. and each of its citizens must vote. p. 7 Dworkin..8 That a monopoly on the exercise of coercive power generates special rights on the part of those who are subject to that power has been reiterated by other theorists working in the field of international justice. The first has to do with political power. and it is to this reason that I now turn. as I said. p. Now Dworkin does not say explicitly whether the existence of a unified sovereign power provides a sufficient condition for the existence of egalitarian rights. Sovereign Virtue. Imagine a world inhabited by two antagonistic nations. p. That it is merely a necessary condition and not a sufficient condition can be supported with the following example. 264.6 However. sovereign power is merely part of what is needed to complete a set of sufficient conditions. 30 (2001): 257−296.. and Autonomy’. Michael Blake. Brown claim but not the second. there are two main reasons why Dworkin believes that abstract egalitarian rights have domestic rather than global scope. Equal concern. At present. with that responsibility in mind. for example) and rights which are held against the rest of the world generally. and its officials must enact laws and form governmental policies. ‘Distributive Justice.1. p. but his discussion of fraternity (to which I shall return) strongly suggests that it is only a necessary condition. it is also possible to talk meaningfully of general and special global rights. . In this way. and demands from them allegiance and obedience to its laws. by definition. 8 Ibid. where this reflects the difference between rights which are held against particular actors on the world stage (due to historical actions on their part. Philosophy and Public Affairs. State Coercion. 9 Michael Blake.’9 With great power comes special responsibility. where this marks the difference between rights which are held by all citizens within the political community and rights which are held only by one section of the community and perhaps even a single member.

11 Dworkin. So what is fraternity and why is it important? Fraternity Dworkin introduces the notion of fraternity in Law’s Empire in the context of an examination of citizens’ obligations. pp. the dominant group takes most of the available resources leaving only enough for the others to live a very basic existence. What should they do? I think that Dworkin would find it hard to resist the conclusion that the newly dominant nation has no moral duty to show equal concern and respect to members of the subordinate nation. given the fact that generally speaking people are born into their particular political communities. it does not follow that they ought to treat everybody as equals. 196−197. people attract rather than assume associative obliga- tions. Why not? It might be argued that the reason why these two nations do not owe each other equal concern is because there is no fraternity between them. unions and office colleagues.. p. The dominant nation might claim to hold power. but it cannot reasonably claim to hold power under a fraternal ideal. he lights on the idea of associative obligations. p. To undermine this assumption. However. 13 Ibid.Are there any global egalitarian rights? 439 fire power. It demands obedience from the other nation over a range of issues including the distribution of resources in the world they share. Law’s Empire (Cambridge. they reach the point of equality. he thinks that it is difficult to see how this could be otherwise. 376. ‘Ronald Dworkin Replies’. p. consent is not a necessary condition of membership. After only a short period of time. suppose the fortunes of the two nations dramatically reverse one day when members of the less powerful group stumble upon a novel and potentially devastating weapon which the other nation has no way to develop. Law’s Empire.13 He also rejects the notion that membership must be based on ‘emotional bonds that presuppose that each member of the group has personal 10 Ronald Dworkin.10 The core characteristic shared by these examples is that ‘people have obligations in virtue of being members of certain kinds of communities. families. Others believe that they ought to show restraint. Dworkin offers the examples of obligations which arise among friends and lovers. 1986). he sets out to challenge the common assumption that political obligation requires consent on the part of citizens. and the practical value of the choice to emigrate is often severely limited. Not surprisingly. some of their number believe that they should press home their advantage and take more. 196. emphasis added.: Harvard University Press. Associative obligations are. At this juncture. Mass. Indeed. Slowly but surely. 207. From the mere fact that they now find themselves in control of the resources. 12 Dworkin.’11 In this way. even though they have not chosen that status or role. Here.12 Dworkin maintains that there is no requirement of consent even in the case of political communities. put simply. they begin to exert their new found dominance and take resources from the other nation. obligations which people owe to each other because they are associated in certain ways. .

members of the political community ‘must regard the groups’ obligations as special. 20 Dworkin. p. Law’s Empire.19 Third. 19 Ibid. So what are fraternal obligations? According to Dworkin. pp.22 Dworkin argues that these attitudes should be seen as ‘an interpretive property’.. . 199. 16 Ibid.) Forth. 200. First.16 They must ‘share a general and diffuse sense of members’ special rights and responsibilities from or toward one another. ‘members must see their responsibilities as flowing from a more general duty each has of concern for the well-being of others in the group. 21 Ibid. p.’18 Second. Dworkin argues that a community is not an agent or living thing with an ontological status and life of its own over and above the activities of its members. Now. Dworkin identifies four necessary conditions for the existence of fraternal association.’17 But not just any sense will do. ‘Liberal Community’. 196. p. On the contrary.14 This opens up the possibility of large political communities with dispersed and heterogeneous populations. p. 18 Ibid. California Law Review. p. holding distinctly within the group. pp. geographical or historical conditions that lead peoples to become members of ‘bare’ political communities from the conditions that are necessary to transform a bare political community into a ‘true’ political community. where true political communities involve fraternal obligations.15 Dworkin seems to think that a lack of true political community in the world of states provides a second barrier to the extension of principles of domestic distributive justice to the international sphere. emphasis in original. See Ronald Dworkin. 494. they must accept that the obligations are owed to each member of the group rather than to the group as a collective entity. rather than as general duties its members owe equally to persons outside it. 22 Ibid. 15 Ibid. Dworkin does not suppose that every political community will involve associative obligations which are rightly described as egalitarian. they must suppose that the duty of concern is a duty of equal concern in the sense that no member’s life is more valuable than any other member’s life.440 A.. he insists that one must be careful to distinguish between the various accidental genetic. it is unnecessary for these attitudes to be conscious or explicit. when Dworkin says this is ‘a more general duty’ it is still a special duty in the crucial sense that it is owed to comembers only. to count as having fraternal obligations ‘the members of a group must by and large hold certain attitudes about the responsibilities they owe one another’. In contrast to communitarianism properly called.. a sense of what sort and level of sacrifice one may be expected to make for another. This means that it is enough that we can interpret their actions as though they had these 14 Ibid.21 Although the members of a political community must hold certain attitudes about the responsibilities they owe to each other for it to be considered a true political community. 199.’20 (Note. 17 Ibid.. 196−198. Brown acquaintance of all others’. 200−201. 77 (1989): 479−504..

their demands. for example—this provides an obvious stumbling block to interpreting current international relations under a fraternal ideal.25 The suggestion here is that values of justice and fairness are bounded values. however.24 In so far as the same condition holds for global politics—the constitution of the UN. elections and law enforcement and across many spheres of public life. p. to wit.. and ideals. To the extent that it recognises the interests of its own citizens as paramount. Britons to other Britons. if there is no such thing as a global sovereign which exercises a monopoly on coercive power over a fraternal world political community. however.. 201. the terms and conditions of humanitarian aid. equal concern. is whether or not exhibiting the interpretive property must itself be true of some fixed number of actual members. 24 Ibid. it is reasonably clear that any deeply discriminatory or hierarchical society is unlikely to satisfy the last condition of fraternity. 208.. how can any government be reasonably interpreted as accepting that the duty of concern it has to other peoples is a duty of equal concern? Weighing the Prospects for Global Egalitarian Rights So far. Those who resist the idea of global egalitarian rights instinctively can point to the fact that sovereign power and true political community are necessary preconditions of such rights. foreign trade rules. then members of poor countries have no right to expect a reduction in global inequalities of income and wealth. legislation. international law. 25 Ibid. and so forth. we have this much. We suppose that we have special interests in and obligations toward other members of our own nation. in the first instance to other Americans. It is often assumed that governments will recognise the interests of their own citizens as paramount. that without a global political group of the required kind.23 What is much less clear.Are there any global egalitarian rights? 441 attitudes as opposed to assuming that the attitude is ‘a psychological property of some fixed number of the actual members’. 213−214. Dworkin clarifies that if the attitude of equal concern does not pervade every level of politics including the constitution. pp. taking precedence over any concern they ought to show for the members of other political communities. We treat community as prior to justice and fairness in the sense that questions of justice and fairness are regarded as questions of what would be just or fair within a particular political group. for example. visions. then. p. How many individual members of the community must be treating one another in ways that can be plausibly interpreted as fraternal for that community to be considered a true community? Despite this difficult question. there can be no questions of 23 Ibid. the community cannot make a claim to legitimacy under a fraternal ideal (regardless of whether or not other duties of justice do or do not remain in play). . So. As Dworkin puts it. American address their political appeals.

are sufficient to support the existence of global egalitarian rights which are negative in character (as in rights against being harmed by others). p. 82. This is. 5 (2002): 80−85. Nardin (eds. argues in a somewhat similar vein to Dworkin that the only sorts of political associations which can support egalitarian institutions such as redistributive taxation and a welfare state are those which ‘involve a kind of institutional reciprocity’. ‘Limits of Cosmopolitan Justice’. 26 David Miller. Here. In other words. of course. but that it is by no means unanswerable. sovereigns are free to avoid entanglement in obligation-generating associative relationships just as two friends might concentrate on the obligations they have to one another resolutely avoiding any new attachments with outsiders. There are three strategies worth noting. What is more. for example. A second strategy is to ground global rights to equal concern and respect in the existence of international social and economic interaction which. 27 David Miller. There is nothing which precludes states from refusing to lift a finger to bring about a change in international relations of the sort that is required for the existence of a global political community. Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy. the logic of the view seems to be that whilst sovereigns are not under any obligation to refrain from entering into such groups with other countries—thereby attracting obligations toward other peoples—there is at the same time no obligation to strive toward such ties. p. Mapel and T.: Princeton University Press. for example. 28 See. 1998). The idea that a special kind of community is required to duplicate domestic egalitarian rights at the global level is shared by some other notable theorists in the field.28 A third strategy is to argue for the existence of global rights to equal concern and respect that (1) do not depend for their existence on manmade political structures. Thomas Pogge. David Miller. Brown justice and fairness. whereby ‘members contribute their labour and/or their money to a common pool. If this is Dworkin’s position.14. ‘Cosmopolitanism: A Critique’. It is the third strategy that I wish to defend here. 180n. though not exactly like the ties that bind people together within states.27 I think that the above critique of global egalitarian rights deserves to be taken seriously. World Poverty and Human Rights (Cambridge: Polity Press. .J. which is then drawn upon by those with special needs or in particular circumstances such as old age’. however. Before doing so.) International Society: Diverse Ethical Perspectives (Princeton. One is to try to ground global rights to equal concern and respect by digging in one’s heals and insisting that there does exist among current political structures and practices something like a global sovereign power and a global political community with the hallmarks of fraternity. the strategy adopted by Thomas Pogge. 2002).26 Miller subscribes to the view that there is no global community of the requisite sort in today’s world. in D. and I shall attempt to do so by appealing to Dworkin’s own principles of ethical individualism. fraternal communities or extensive social and economic interaction/interdependence and (2) are positive in nature. then he is by no means alone in holding it. enforcement is possible only because people generally acknowledge a responsibility to contribute to the community ‘which is more than’ a responsibility to help people elsewhere.442 A. N. I first want to say something about the first and second strategies.

31 See. Bell and A. loans.31 To make things a fraction simpler.29 In this way. the General Assembly passed a resolution stating that state sovereignty ‘must be fully respected’ and that in this context. Booth and S. Smith (eds. Obligations. human rights. Even in exceptional circumstances where states seek to intervene in the affairs of other states in the name of humanitarian assistance (arguably a core purpose of the UN). The UN is. does it amount to equal concern? 29 UN Charter. Indeed.30 Whatever else the UN is. First. to develop friendly relations among nations. Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield. I propose to concentrate on international aid programmes and human rights organisations. in D. a grouping of states organised around a set of core purposes set out in its Charter—to maintain international peace and security. diplomacy. 1995). But all of this raises two additional questions which are crucial tests for fraternity. 2003). But is it a global fraternity in Dworkin’s sense? A full answer to this question would need to look into the shared practices and expectations of member states across a range of issues including trade agreements. Article 2 of the UN Charter clearly stipulates that ‘Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state’. the UN is essentially a collaborative enterprise of independent sovereign states. pp. and so on. de-Shalit (eds.) International Relations Theory Today (Cambridge: Polity Press. emphasis added. Simon Caney. but I think that it falls short of global sovereign power and fraternity in at least some important respects. to cooperate in solving international problems. 30 UN Resolution A/46/182 (1991). is the motivation behind this kind of activity based on the acceptance of a duty of concern for others? Second. in 1991. to promote respect for human rights.Are there any global egalitarian rights? 443 The United Nations The United Nations is arguably the most plausible candidate in respect of the first strategy. members of the UN retain sovereign authority over a large array of issues including foreign policy in relation to spending on the reduction of global inequality. 292−293. therefore. 32 Chris Brown. Article 2(7).) Forms of Justice: Critical Perspectives on David Miller’s Political Philosophy (Lanham. in 1948. it is not a global sovereign. in K. Although members of the UN can agree upon terms of cooperation. the environment. refugees. development aid. I concur with Chris Brown that ‘the growth of voluntary aid organizations such as Oxfam and human rights groups such as Amnesty International suggests that some concern for the interests and rights of citizens of other states is quite widely accepted. ‘humanitarian assistance should be provided with the consent of the affected country’. ‘International Political Theory and the Idea of World Community’.’32 After all. of course. . and Distributive Justice: The Global Level’. and UN institutions can try to implement these terms and secure compliance. 94−95. pp. international law. ‘Entitlements. for example. the General Assembly of the UN adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and then has set up numerous bodies to monitor and police rights violations and initiating various humanitarian aid programmes not least the World Food Programme (WFP).

and this seems to be the primary function of such programmes. However. 2004). 1999).33 Even where the donor seems to have the interests of the recipient at heart. Of course. in J. of course. The Rise and Fall of Development Theory (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. it does not follow that the donor acts exclusively from a duty to show concern. Institutions such as the WFP are part of the UN system and as such are subject to the decisions of the General Assembly through the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). I am not persuaded that they provide the complete story here. it is possible to aver the Hobbesian explanation that it acts because the well-being of the recipient enters into its own utility functions through the need to avoid feelings of guilt. Theories of Development (New York: Guilford Press. in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and 33 For more on these explanations. Universal Human Rights: In Theory and Practice. recommendations rather than binding imperatives and the WFP is largely funded on a voluntary basis. 35 Paul Taylor and Devon Curtis. The decisions of the General Assembly are. far greater benefits accrue to the recipient countries. Richard Peet. NY: Cornell University Press. realist and Marxist theories of international aid will. ‘The United Nations’. pp. 1996). p. 34 Jack Donelly. Brown In answer to the first question. Even so. In some instances. see Colin Leys. in the dignity and worth of the human person.35 Nevertheless. Smith (eds. Although it is notoriously difficult to defeat these sorts of explanations. 2003). however. 164−165. it might be insisted that such activity still demonstrates a sense of what sort and level of sacrifice one country may be expected to make for another. Second Edition (Ithaca. what reason do we have to suppose that such activities flow from acceptance of a duty to show equal concern to others? That is to say. Some donor countries offer unconditional aid because it increases the capacity and propensity of the recipients to consume exported products and ensures the stability of vulnerable states on the frontline against Communism (and now Islam).444 A. from the mere fact that benefits to the recipient far outstrip benefits to the donor. . is it possible to interpret these activities as being conducted on the basis of the fundamental principle that the lives of poor people in foreign countries are no more or less valuable than the lives of people at home? Some positive evidence for this interpretation comes from the Preamble of the UN Charter: ‘We the peoples of the United Nations [are] determined to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights. seek to explain such practices in terms of self-interest rather than flowing from a sense of duty. Third Edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press.34 Nor can self-interest fully explain humanitarian aid programmes like the WFP. 410.) The Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations. Baylis and S. Western governments will hold back economic development money from countries in which there are human rights abuses even where this is not to the benefit of the donor country. or a donor country might offer conditional aid because it seeks to restrict the development of the recipient country thereby sustaining its dependency on the donor. it is at least possible to say that one major reason for international aid is acceptance of a moral duty toward the citizens of foreign countries. Although they clearly do have externalities which rebound to the benefit of donor countries in some of the ways described above.

org/aboutun/charter. So the question is: who are the relevant nonmembers? In the case of the UN—with its 191 member states—these obligations can be special only in respect of excluding the citizens of very few nonmember states/nations. those outside the group? One possibility is to conceive the relevant group of nonmembers as nonhuman animals. cannot be regarded as a member of a genuine political community even if others are disposed to treat him as such. Law’s Empire. . no political community can be considered to be fraternal unless it is at the same time a bare political community. blood line. a seemingly insurmountable difficulty in applying Dworkin’s conception of fraternal association to the international sphere. In other words. But it does mean that we can conceive of global associative obligations as special in the sense that they apply only to fellow human beings. It is one thing to say that the UN sets itself the goal of equal rights. This implies that he relevant obligations are not owed to nonmembers. This does not mean that one has to see other animals as forming separate communities with their own special obligations. In these circumstances. it is hard to see the distinction between special obligations and general duties. pp. However.Are there any global egalitarian rights? 445 small. With such a high ratio of members to nonmembers. Dworkin insists that although not all bare political communities are fraternal communities. let us assume for the sake of argument that there is a significant amount of acceptance among member states of the aforementioned fundamental principle. quite another to say that it expects countries not to show favouritism to their own population in this regard. shared history. it is not entirely unfeasible that despite the very great intra-planetary differences between the peoples of earth.’36 It goes without saying that this evidence is far from incontrovertible. There remains. emphasis added. and so on. in what sense can it be said that members owe special obligations to fellow members as distinct from those outside the group? Who are the nonmembers. 37 Dworkin. 201−202. Recall that Dworkin’s first condition of fraternity is that members must regard the obligations that are owed to each other as special in the sense that they are obligations owed exclusively to those within the group. the human race is contacted by the members of a highly developed species from a neighbouring solar system who are being affected by our actions somehow. The difference seems to disappear altogether if one reflects on a possible future in which every state and every nation in the world becomes a fully fledged member of the UN. After all.37 Another possibility is to cast extraterrestrials in the role of nonmembers. This means that a person who shares no actual association with the members of a group through shared territory. Suppose that at some time in the near future.un. it is hard to make sense of why these are ‘associative’ obligations in Dworkin’s particular sense of the word when the key distinction is between members and nonmembers of the human race as opposed to members and nonmembers of a community. they could regard themselves as a single community with certain special obligations to 36 Available at: http://www. common jurisdiction. the putative distinction between associative obligations and general duties collapses into a more familiar distinction between the obligations we owe to fellow human beings and the obligations we owe to other animals. however. on this interpretation. Even so. If all the peoples of earth collectively make up a fraternal association.

’39 Consider the case of a community which embraces militant nationalism including widespread approval of war for national self-interest. for even genuine associative obligations may conflict with. That is to say. 213.. for reasons of brevity. Dworkin does not wish to deny that there can be duties of justice owed to peoples in other parts of the world which do not depend on associative ties. let us say that global egalitarian rights are rights to equal concern and respect that are held by any person or group of persons against the rest of the world. 39 Ibid. then. The first is that talk of 38 Ibid. Although it is possible to conceive of a global community which has obligations which are special in relation to a wider universe of moral concern. Nevertheless. he does not thereby commit himself to the stronger (and false) claim that these are the only sources of moral duty. The interpreters take the view that ‘any conflict between militant nationalism and standards of justice must be resolved in favor of the latter’.40 Clearly. Nevertheless.. given the circumstances in which we find ourselves presently. he does not rule out the possibility of responsibilities to show equal concern and respect based on something other than a special obligation.446 A. demands of justice. p. or it may violate rights of its citizens or citizens of other nations. At this stage in the argument. p. where this means any person or group of persons including states. Dworkin argues that it is perfectly legitimate for outsiders to adopt a deeply sceptical interpretive attitude toward such a community denying that its members do have genuine obligations to support unjust wars. it is clear that we are now moving away from reality and into the realms of science fiction. transnational corporations and global political associations. 40 Ibid. p. 206. Brown each other over and above any inter-planetary responsibilities they owe to the extraterrestrials. On this reading. there are two fairly obvious limitations with the foregoing definition. provide only certain illustrations. 214. Indeed. it is worth emphasising that when Dworkin makes the claim that sovereignty and fraternal community are prerequisites of a certain kind of special egalitarian concern. its conception of equal concern may be defective.. there are many different permutations of rights holders and duty bearers. he makes it quite plain that obligations between community members ‘may be defeated. in Law’s Empire. . however. can anything be said for the existence of rights that transcend the existence of such bonds? As a rough first approximation. it seems that Dworkin’s conception of fraternal association rules out the current existence of such obligations.’38 ‘An association of principle is not automatically a just community. They might authorise a special body to make decisions about and communicate with the alien nation. and must sometimes yield to. In what follows I shall. Two Kinds of Rights-Based Approach to International Justice Although there may be some rights which depend for their existence on certain sorts of fraternal community and which apply only within states.

liberty of conscience. N. 203−204. Miller. Globalization and World Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press. World Poverty and Human Rights. of course. draws a useful distinction between principles of international justice which require a reduction of global inequality. He initially suggests that the 41 David Miller. ‘Justice and Global Inequality’. highlights the need for positive rights (which specify what agents ought to do for others) alongside negative rights. principles which demand respect of basic rights (rights to bodily integrity. Woods (eds. 43 Not everyone recognises the validity of the distinction between negative and positive rights.: Princeton University Press. there are some important differences between these principles. pp. it is often said. Henry Shue. by their very nature. Basic Rights: Subsistence. A second kind of approach.41 Clearly.43 In what follows I shall offer some illustrations of these different kinds of approaches. 1999).J. Rawls introduces a version of the veil of ignorance in which representatives of different nations come together to agree upon a set of laws of international justice. for example.42 The upshot is that any full account of global egalitarian rights must not only specify what they mean in concrete terms but also how the relevant rights holders and duty bears would be determined in any given case. some of the world’s poorest countries have special claims against particular actors on the world stage arising out of identifiable historical circumstances—colonisation by aggressive foreign powers and the exploitative practices of ruthless transnational corporations are just two illustrations. but there is at least a sense in which they each provide a different interpretation of the same abstract rights to equal concern and respect. the right not to be harmed by an unjust world order. for example. and U. of course. I shall return to the issue of assigning rights holders and duty bearers at the end of this article. 2. Hence. In A Theory of Justice. ch. Charles Beitz and Thomas Pogge. Foreign Policy (Princeton. impose duties on particular agents rather than the world in general. liberty and subsistence) and principles which call on states and corporations not to exploit others. 1980). See. 42 Pogge. and such rights. individual rights against torture and genocide. It is that although abstract rights to equal concern and respect are general. the rights of sovereign states against foreign invasion. S. but I want first to outline briefly the more familiar views of John Rawls. At this stage. It is important to distinguish two kinds of rights-based approach to issues of international justice. Hurrell and N. however. I wish to concentrate on the nature of these rights.) Inequality. such that it also includes a much wider array of social and economic rights—for example. by contrast. I shall consider Dworkin’s own account of human rights in a moment. Affluence. The second limitation picks up on a point I made at the start of this article about global rights. . in A.Are there any global egalitarian rights? 447 global rights to equal concern and respect is sufficiently abstract to admit of a variety of very different moral claims not all of which are egalitarian in the strict sense of the word. One kind of approach puts the emphasis on negative rights (which specify what agents must not do to others) and typically incorporates a bundle of legal and moral rights against the restriction of liberty and other forms of harm—for example. the right of poor people around the world to a reduction in unchosen social and economic inequalities. sometimes they translate into special reparation rights.

Patrick Hayden has rightly challenged Rawls for his ‘limited’ interpretation claiming that Rawls cannot appeal to some parts of the UDHR to support his case but not Article 1. 68. 79. however. and security of ethnic groups from mass murder and genocide. p. 46 Ibid. 47 Ibid.47 He maintains that any human rights that people in the Western world can legitimately expect other peoples to respect must be capable of being accepted by decent non-liberal peoples. At any rate. 37. pp. Nonetheless. of ordering society’.45 However. pp.448 A. pp. and to a sufficient measure of liberty of conscience to ensure freedom of religion and thought). in The Law of Peoples. 49 Ibid.’49 According to Rawls. 50 Ibid.. 59.. 1971). 52 Rawls. p. and to formal equality as expressed by the rules of natural justice (that is.. 80n. to liberty (to freedom from Brown representatives would acknowledge the right of self-determination and self- defence..’50 It should be observed.23. p. 79.HTM. Mass. serfdom. he speaks of the duty of liberal peoples not to interfere in the internal life of others countries unless in response to human rights violations as well as the positive duty to assist ‘burdened societies’ in their striving toward domestic justice. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act toward one another in a spirit of brotherhood.46 Although he believes that present global institutions such as the UN are sufficient to instantiate the principles of the law of peoples.52 My own hunch is that this complaint is more plausible in respect of the second part of Article 1 than the first part which on the surface seems universal. 1999).. the few human rights that satisfy this constraint are: ‘the right to life (to the means of subsistence and security). and this invites the following line of objection.udhr.. and forced occupation. 378−379. 48 Ibid. they do not support a Difference Principle designed to regulate international social and economic inequalities. that these are predominately negative rights and are by no means as egalitarian as they might be. The Law of Peoples (Cambridge. . A Theory of Justice (Oxford: Clarendon Press.. p. 51 Available at: http://www. Yet he also dismisses Article 1 of the same declaration. 65. 115−119. that similar cases be treated similarly) . his reason for not extending the Difference Principle to the international sphere has less to do with the nonexistence of an appropriate global authority to implement it and more to do with his conviction that doing so ‘would fail to express due toleration for other acceptable ways . Rawls famously does not seek to extend the Difference Principle to the global sphere. as ‘Article 1 is the very basis for all of 44 John Rawls. 45 John Rawls. The Law of Peoples.48 It is important that ‘[t]hese rights do not depend on any particular comprehensive religious doctrine or philosophical doctrine of human nature. to property (personal property).44 Later. Rawls draws on Articles 3 and 5 of the UDHR in drawing up his list of human rights. (‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights..’51) He dismisses Article 1 as a possible basis for overlapping consensus between very different political cultures on the grounds that it can be ‘more aptly described as stating liberal aspirations’. pp.: Harvard University Press..

Political Theory and International Relations.53 With this in mind. ‘Social and Cosmopolitan Liberalism’.58 Furthermore.55 Rawls. and so on. 75 (1999): 515−529. to falsely attribute the causes of poverty to national factors (such as corrupt leaders or the culture of the country) as opposed to unjust international conditions. however. In his influential book. it would not be acceptable to transfer resources from wealthier countries to undo such inequalities. 110 (2000): 669−696. pp. Another notable example is global inequalities in income and wealth. World Poverty and Human Rights. John Rawls: Towards a Just World Order (Cardiff: University of Wales Press. 115−119. The Law of Peoples. 59 Ibid.Are there any global egalitarian rights? 449 the independent rights contained in the UDHR and constitution’. pp. 140−141. What implications does this have for the law of peoples? Rawls insists that liberal states may not interfere with the self-governance of decent hierarchical societies irrespective of the fact that such societies reject the liberal view that all people have a right to equal basic liberties.59 that is to say. 53 Patrick Hayden. however. 57 Ibid. p. conspicuously ignores those inequalities which are not due to domestic decision-making and this is where the work of Pogge comes to the fore. Political Theory and International Relations. . 71. Beitz argues that the Difference Principle (one of the central planks of justice as fairness) should be applied to global as well as domestic social and economic inequalities. 54 Rawls. To apply the Difference Principle at the global level. international law relating to the movement of people. 56 Rawls. Beitz argues that it is enough to appreciate the extent to which social and economic ‘interdependencies’ between countries around the world generate significant social and economic inequalities that are rarely to the benefit of the least advantaged.54 It is hard to see the motivation for this position once one accepts the fundamental principle of equality in existing international declarations of human rights.. 170. namely. 118. p. 55 See Charles Beitz. Ethics..57 This response. suppose that the principle of equal importance expressed in Article 1 does provide a suitable basis for principles of international justice. The Law of Peoples. Some peoples are able to become and remain far wealthier than other peoples because international trade and investment is conducted largely under the rules they dictate and which are favourable to them. p. International Affairs. Pogge maintains that people in rich countries have a negative duty not to support a coercively imposed institutional order of foreign trade rules. 58 Pogge. 2002). p. ‘Rawls’s Law of Peoples’. Beitz takes the view that the wealth generated by interaction between rich and poor countries should be husbanded and distributed to the benefit of the global poor. In response to Rawls. 152. Consequently. international borrowing and resource privileges. ‘that unavoidably leaves human rights unfulfilled’. 136. p. insists that it is integral to the law of peoples that Western governments must respect the decisions made by free and responsible peoples in other parts of the world regarding such things as the trade-off between production and leisure time and even population size. Pogge argues that to hold poor countries responsible for global inequalities is to commit the fallacy of ‘explanatory nationalism’.56 In so far as these decisions contribute significantly to global inequalities.

60 According to Pogge’s preferred conception. Langlois. 14. Ethics and International Affairs. 2004). 61 Thomas Pogge. Because he emphasises the existence of merely negative rights. pp. Kuper (ed. and so I do not intend to discuss them in detail here. however. 63 Pogge. Libertarians insist on a minimalist constraint on what duties human rights can impose: human rights require that we not harm others in certain ways—not that we protect. 64 cf. Pogge’s intention is to present a coherent moral apparatus with which to address issues of global inequality whilst at the same time not falling foul of an assumption about rights that has been the subject of intense controversy between liberals and libertarians for many decades.) Global Responsibil- ities: Who Must Deliver on Human Rights? (London: Routledge. 2005). 62 See. in A. This potentially sets aside a range of noninstitutional and non-harm-based inequalities that might be condemned by some 60 See Thomas Pogge. 5 (2005): 5−24. Philosophy and Public Affairs. 66−67. Metaphilosophy. and (4) it invites the reply that closer scrutiny shows that his alleged negative rights collapse into positive rights or else fail to adequately identify suitable duty-bearers. (3) it requires some nonarbitrary baseline from which to measure whether a country is severely poor. ‘‘Assisting’ the Global Poor’ in D. ‘Severe Poverty as a Violation of Negative Duties’. 33 (2005): 349−378. ‘How Does the Global Order Harm the Poor?’. ‘Conceiving Human Rights without Ontology’. Anthony J. however. rescue. 32 (2001): 6−24.63 Even if Pogge can avoid objections from libertarians by occupy the higher ground of negative rights. Mathias Risse. One fairly obvious point is that Pogge’s retreat to negative rights restricts our attention to those social and economic inequalities which flow from an institutional order which is harmful in the relevant sense. to have a human right is to have a strong moral claim against others not to support a coercive institutional order that makes one worse off than one ought to be. Human Rights Review.62 I wish to focus instead on Pogge’s rationale for assuming merely negative rights. . Brown renders people in other countries ‘severely poor’. clothe.64 But this. I think. Chatterjee (ed.61 Among the numerous objections that Pogge’s view attracts. Some of these objections have been ably explored elsewhere. p. and house them. 19 (2005): 55−82.450 A. ‘Human Rights and Human Responsibilities’. ‘Priorities of Global Justice’. As he puts it. My institutional understanding can accept this constraint without disqualifying social and economic human rights.) The Ethics of Assistance: Morality and the Distant Needy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. for example. World Poverty and Human Rights. Pogge believes that he cannot be accused by libertarians of positing the existence of rights which they deny outright. Occupying the higher ground will only succeed on both counts if Pogge can convince egalitarians that negative rights are sufficient to meet the demands of justice in the international sphere. (2) it relies on potentially controversial empirical claims about the ways in which countries are adversely affected overall by the institutional order. are that (1) it places a great deal of weight on a somewhat under-explained assumption that the institutional order is coercive. this does not mean that he can avoid objections from egalitarians. feed. is a big ask.

69 Ibid. p. and Global Stewardship (Totowa. Linden (eds. 141. .) Ethics of Consumption: The Good Life. Justice. I submit that nobody should have to suffer these disadvantages without the assistance of the rest of the world any more than they should have to suffer the affects of an unequal distribution of the world’s natural resources or an unjust world order. p. ‘What is the Point of Equality?’ Ethics. Consider. a number of scholars of international distributive justice—including Pogge67—have taken the important intellectual step of emphasising not only inequalities which result from social and economic interaction but also inequalities of natural resources. Crocker and T. but before turning to Dworkin. Pogge maintains that it is not the unequal physical distribution of natural resources that is unjust per se but rather the fact that ‘[t]he better-off enjoy significant advantages in the use of a single natural resource base from whose benefit the worse-off are largely. p. argues that inequalities in the distribution of raw materials across the surface of the globe is ‘a purer case of something being “arbitrary from a moral point of view” than the distribution of talents’. 1999).69 (For his part.65 Putting the point in its most crude form. 289. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice. it is unclear whether all global inequalities could be eliminated or rendered unproblematic from the point of view of egalitarian justice merely by eliminating the imposition of an unjust and coercive economic system. Political Theory and International Relations. excluded.’70) While I do not seek to defend the claim that the distribution of (access to) external resources is a purer case of moral arbitrariness than the distribution of human talents. 70 Pogge. There are some limited similarities here with Dworkin’s own focus on brute luck.. 7 (2005): 537−550. in D. 140. the unequal brute luck of being born into a county with an ongoing and pervasive shortfall of natural talent compared to other peoples. World Poverty and Human Rights. Not all inequalities can be presented as harms in that sense. I want to contrast existing work on global justice with what I shall call global luck egalitarianism. In other words.66 To make the same point in a slightly different way. I believe that it should be extended beyond the case of natural external resources to include disadvantages caused by inequalities of internal resources (skills and talents) and natural disasters. 202. for example. 68 Beitz. in being born into a country whose climate is such that people are at high risk of certain insect-borne diseases not faced in other parts of the world. in this article. ‘A Global Resources Dividend’. for example. Beitz. 66 The term ‘luck egalitarianism’ was first coined by Elizabeth Anderson. in being born into a country which faces a high probability of regular natural disasters. ‘The Duty to Eradicate Global Poverty: Positive or Negative?’. p. I need to address an important methodological 65 A somewhat similar point is made by Pablo Gilabert. and without compensation.Are there any global egalitarian rights? 451 egalitarians. for example. I do think that Beitz is right to widen the scope of the moral arbitrariness line of argument. NJ: Rowman and Littlefield. 109 (1999): 287−337.68 He concludes from this that resource-rich countries have certain natural duties in respect of the rest of the world which do not depend on membership of global associations or interaction with resource-poor countries. 67 Thomas Pogge.

Sovereign Virtue. Dworkin argues that it might be possible to persuade others to accept the existence of rights to equal concern and respect by finding a deeper common ground which they can share. Is Democracy Possible Here?. 6. but we do not owe them concern equal to that we have for ourselves. p. 9−10. p. Brown question. 80 Dworkin. pp. Rather. 5. p. and it matters not just to them but objectively speaking. Is Democracy Possible Here? (Princeton: Princeton University Press. p. p. The success or failure of any human life is important in itself. This principle ‘holds that each person has a special responsibility for realizing the success of his own life. If a group of powerful states did decide to enforce the duties associated with these rights around the world. 2006). This immediately raises the issue of fallibility. 324. this principle translates into an obligation to show equal concern only ‘in certain circumstances’. and others close to us. Sovereign Virtue. the relationship is one of interpretation rather than entailment.80 ‘As individuals. Sovereign Virtue. something we all have reason to want or to deplore’. 72 Dworkin. Is Democracy Possible Here?.76 The second is ‘the principle of special responsibility’77 (or ‘the principle of personal responsibility’78).’71 In fact. 73 Dworkin. 94−5. He argues that to find this deeper common ground ‘we must not look to principles that are distinctly political or even moral but rather to principles that identify more abstract value in the human situation. Dworkin claims that almost all of us (in the Western world at least) are united in sharing what he calls ‘two principles of ethical individualism’72 (or ‘two principles of human dignity’73). 10. p. the equal value of every human life) always implies an obligation to show equal concern for other persons. 9. Sovereign Virtue.452 A. pp. According to this principle.. He does not suppose that the principle of equal importance (as in.’79 What is the relationship between these fundamental principles and rights to equal concern and respect? It is clear that for Dworkin. 5. 81 Dworkin. 79 Ibid. how could they justify this action to those who do not instinctively share the same intuitions concerning the existence of these rights? One way to tackle these issues is to consider whether egalitarian rights are fundamental or based on some deeper set of principles. Is Democracy Possible Here?. pp. The first is ‘the principle of equal importance’74 (or ‘the principle of intrinsic value’75). our families. 78 Dworkin. How do I know that I am not mistaken in my intuition that positive global egalitarian rights exist? It also raises the issue of justification. 9. How does one prove that positive egalitarian rights exist? Suppose one says that the existence of such rights is to be discovered through moral intuition alone. it matters how well or badly people’s lives go. pp. . In his recent book. Is Democracy Possible Here?. we owe all other human beings a measure of concern.’81 71 Dworkin. Is Democracy Possible Here?. 74 Dworkin. 77 Dworkin. 76 Ibid. 75 Dworkin. 6. 9−10. a responsibility that includes exercising his judgement about what kind of life would be successful for him.

as individuals. If one accepts the basic premise that every human life has equal intrinsic worth. 85 Ibid. p. 37. 35−36. it is hard to see how the importance of showing equal concern and respect for that life in relation to the distribution of income and wealth. Nevertheless. 96. In particular.85 There is plenty in the foregoing sketch to question. p. . could cease at state borders.84 Dworkin takes it as read that the two principles of human dignity provide common ground for liberals and non-liberals alike and that they support baseline human rights in international justice. Baseline human rights are ‘the concrete rights. pp. 84 Ibid. This has obvious implications for how we treat the citizens of other countries. 35−36. I find Dworkin’s separation of human and political rights unconvincing.’82 Similarly. If the aforementioned principles of human dignity are the fundamental principles in play.. for example. pp.) Public and Private Morality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. a question about whether or not a government can claim to have treated its own citizens as equals). he does not endorse the view that governments must show equal concern and respect to the citizens of other countries. 86 Ibid.. They are the concrete rights that human rights covenants and treaties try to identify. although Dworkin believes that governments have an obligation to show equal concern and respect to their own citizens. Is Democracy Possible Here?. Hampshire (ed. 83 Dworkin. as it renders global inequalities between rich and poor exempt from egalitarian condemnation..Are there any global egalitarian rights? 453 So. p. like the right not to be tortured that set limits to how any government may act’. ‘Liberalism’ in S. These rights forbid acts that could not be justified by any intelligible interpretation of the ideas that people’s lives are of equal intrinsic value and that they have a personal responsibility for their own lives. for example. 1978) 113−143. treat our neighbours children with the same concern as our own. is a bounded question (that is. 125. for example.83 The basic thought is that whereas the question of equality of resources. from the mere fact that some people interpret the principles of human dignity in a way that excludes economic rights from the category of universal human rights. Dworkin does grant the existence of what he calls ‘baseline human rights’ in addition to the special ‘political rights’ of citizens within their own political communities. To restrict the application of full egalitarian rights to the domestic level seems arbitrary from an egalitarian point of view. it does not follow that this is the best interpretation. 82 Ronald Dworkin. ‘most of us do not suppose that we must. or treat everyone we meet with the same respect.86 However. then why do they translate into full economic rights to equal concern at the domestic level but only baseline human rights at the global level? Dworkin himself points to the fact that people do disagree about whether universal human rights include economic rights. the question of human rights is an unbounded question (a question about whether or not a government can claim to have accepted the two principles of human dignity as constraints on its conduct toward people at home and abroad).

the form in which equal concern ought to be shown will depend on who those people are and the situations in which they find themselves. 9 (2005): 55−79. On the contrary. I believe that for abstract rights to equal concern and respect to give rise to specific duties on the part of rich people to transfer resources to the victims of bad brute luck. and would it be worth defending? While I do not have space to provide a full account. ‘Against Global Egalitarianism’. I have hinted at the conclusion that we require a more pluralistic or complex approach to issues of global inequality which incorporates positive and negative rights. Nor do I wish to imply that these rights transcend the existence of any association between peoples whatsoever. Nonetheless. for example—where this means in addition to any special duties they might already have in respect of past injustices—then as a minimum those rich people must (1) be aware of the plight of the involuntarily poor in foreign places (or 87 David Miller. I can briefly sketch some important details. In the context of domestic politics. Journal of Ethics. by the rest of world. is simply that Dworkin makes an assumption about the correct interpretation of the two fundamental principles of human dignity—to wit that they do not translate into principles of equal concern at the international level—which is far from self-evident. and that such rights transcend the existence of a world state. therefore. in some adequately substantial way.87 But I do think that the competing interpretations deserve careful attention and should not be summarily discounted. a world fraternity and the existence of a coercive world order. however. the principles are interpreted one way. I do not mean to suggest that people owe exactly the same things to other people regardless of context. in the context of international politics they are interpreted in another way. We have already seen that there are examples of human rights organisations and international aid programmes which do seem to be based on the fundamental principle that every human life has equal intrinsic worth. My main argument at this juncture. Positive Rights to Equal Concern and Respect Thus far. it is surely correct to say that these states and organisations are egalitarian in the deeper moral sense of recognising the need to show equal concern to individuals around the world. My tentative proposal is that every individual on the planet has a positive moral right to be treated with equal concern and respect. Brown I freely accept that Dworkin (and others) might insist that this is not an arbitrary distinction because our task is to adopt an interpretive attitude toward these principles.454 A. I do not say that contrary interpretations of the same principles are themselves uncontroversial. it seems to me that ordinary political beliefs and practices are far from conclusive in this wider genre. . But what would such an approach look like. not to mention the money already spent on foreign aid by liberal states. Even if they do not subscribe to flat egalitarian principles at the concrete level. By way of clarification. Sometimes. and this attitude must reflect ordinary political beliefs and practices. I take seriously Miller’s charge that the equal worth claim is abstract in the sense that it does not in itself tell us what ‘we’ owe to specific agents.

.89 88 Dworkin. It seems to me that these three qualifications should go some way at least to assuaging the worry felt by many people that principles of global equality are overdemanding. I suggest that these capacities support positive and not merely negative rights and duties. in J. desires. of course. It seems to me that there are many examples of unchosen disadvantages—the unequal affect that an unforeseen tsunami will have on the distribution of income and wealth between different countries. The first part is notable for its inclusion of group as well as individual goals. commitments and ambitions.) Reading Nozick (Oxford: Blackwell. 272. there might be many places around the world where rights are not unreasonably regarded as enabling people to act on conceptions of the good given to them by the particular cultures into which they are born. is the supposition that peoples must be associated with one another in substantive ways to have substantive egalitarian rights against one another. 89 cf. p. for example—where resource transfers cannot realistically be said to impugn or undermine the responsibility of the recipient for its own welfare. whereas the right to equal respect is the right to be treated as a being with a capacity to pursue a long and fulfilling life in accordance with some overall plan or conception of the good whether that is conceived individually or as part of a group. The first is that the word ‘intelligent’ might add complications in terms of cultural differences concerning the meaning and importance of such conceptions. 1981). and the Minimal State’. Law’s Empire. Far from viewing rights as enabling people to form and act on their own conception of the good. but in this article I would like to propose that the right to equal concern is the right to be treated as a being with a capacity for enjoyment and success but also for suffering in respect of basic human needs and frustration in relation to personal or collective goals. What I do not accept. Some might insist that they only support negative rights and duties because the capacity for pursuing a long and fulfilling life in accordance with some overall conception of the good implies a large measure of freedom of choice concerning how and when to assist others as well as a large degree of responsibility for the success or failure of one’s own life. Samuel Scheffler. however. What are these rights based on? There are. as many people do accept that the good life will include at least some positive obligations to assist others. Nor am I convinced that the capacity to pursue a long and fulfilling life in accordance with some overall conception of the good entails taking responsibility for every disadvantage that comes along. I do not see why pursuing a long and fulfilling life is itself inconsistent with the idea of positive duties. (2) have themselves benefited from some kind of brute luck good fortune (3) stand in relations such that they are able to transfer resources effectively and without an unreasonably great burden on themselves. ‘Natural Rights. projects. many different possible ways of trying to answer this question.’88 I justify the difference on two grounds.Are there any global egalitarian rights? 455 cannot reasonably deny awareness). Equality. Paul (ed. More crucially. The second part is also importantly different from Dworkin’s formulation which refers to ‘human beings who are capable of forming and acting on intelligent conceptions of how their lives should be lived. The second is that the idea of ‘forming’ a conception of the good may be eccentric to liberal political philosophy. However.

Lack of foreign assistance in responding to natural catastrophes and disease epidemics and in tackling inequalities of natural resources and shortfalls on the side of the skills and knowledge required for development also plays a big part. . and so on. 78−79. 90−91. one cannot deny that national identifications and commitments do give rise to extra obligations. pp. Just as a parent has a legitimate reason to show more concern for her own child than for the child of a neighbour because it is her child. ‘Cosmopolitanism’. however. But what. is to insist (as Pogge does) that ‘special relationships can increase what we owe to our associates. Thus. schools. For example.90 One plausible line of reply to this objection. but it can also mean a right to assist. to say what it means for agents on the world stage to treat the global disadvantaged with equal concern and respect in some adequately substantial way. A positive right can often imply the right to provide some thing. So.456 A. pp. (I accept that some people might argue that this interpretation marks such a significant departure from equality of resources that it no longer makes sense to describe the view in those terms. ‘Cosmopolitanism: A Defence’. food. it might be argued that government has a legitimate reason to show more concern for its citizens than for foreign citizens because they are its citizens. can be said in support of the more controversial claim that special relationships cannot decrease 90 Miller. but for now let me simply say this. pp. of course. Brown The next critical step is.91 Of course.) What objections might be levelled at such a view other than the brute claim that there are no such things as positive egalitarian rights at the global level? One objection might be that my argument operates under the false assumption that a national government does not have a legitimate reason to do more to help a severely poor person at home than a severely poor person in another country. 80−85. Even if one finds regrettable in some respects the rise of nationalism. 91 Pogge. World Poverty and Human Rights. but they cannot decrease what we owe to everyone else’. It is fairly evident that for many millions of people around the world it is not simply unfair trade rules which cause them to face an existence of suffering and frustration with an unequal chance of pursuing their own conceptions of the good. there is scope for interpreting positive rights to include not merely rights to money but also rights to infrastructure. Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy. what positive duties do governments and individuals in rich developed countries have in respect of transferring resources to poor less developed countries? I shall say more about the relevant duties in the next section. for example. 5 (2002): 86−91. and not inappropriately so. if anything. It strikes me that no adequate theory of global egalitarian rights can be blind to such things even granting the point that what counts as a talent shortfall. clean water. services. will be to some extent dependent on local circumstances and culture. Miller argues that national affinities and affections are rather like familial affinities and affections in that they provide people with a particular reason to show more concern for some than for others. what Pogge has in mind here is that what we owe to our fellow countrymen cannot decrease what we owe to everyone else in terms of negative duties. It is also worth making the fairly routine observation that very often income and wealth alone cannot solve the most difficult and intricate development problems. hospitals. See also Pogge.

In so far as the aim is to justify the existence of such rights to 92 Peter Singer. Second Edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 230. ‘Rich and Poor’ in his Practical Ethics. . giving more assistance to some people than to others does not amount to a violation of our obligation to treat everyone with equal concern. the interests of one’s countrymen and the interests of strangers. for example. argues that the rich must be scrupulously impartial between their own interests and those of people in other parts of the world such that they must keep transferring income and wealth until they have nearly reached the point of suffering disadvantage of ‘comparable significance’. a political culture must have already swallowed a significant dose of liberal ideology. p. to know whether or not there can be such duties. On this reading. showing concern for a person’s life is a matter of doing what is in their best interests. 1993). I do not reject altogether the potential importance of personal ties. for example. ‘Ruthlessness in Public Life’. I might have reasons other than justice to want to help the victims of brute luck I know and care about more than the victims of brute luck I do not know and care about. I call this the deontological conception of concern. 84. To show strong equal concern is to give equal weight to everyone’s interests including one’s own interests. but for now I offer the following general remarks. p. Let us call this the consequentialist conception of concern. Consequentialist concern is aggregative and allows trade-offs in a way that deontological concern does not. we require a more substantial theory of what it means to show equal concern. However. showing equal concern (as in.Are there any global egalitarian rights? 457 what we owe to everyone else in terms of positive duties of equal concern? How can it be possible to increase the concern we give to some without at the same time falling short of our obligation to treat everyone with equal concern? To be sure.93 Compared to weak equal concern.92 To show weak equal concern is to favour the interests of oneself and one’s compatriots but without being indifferent to the interests of strangers across the other side of world. Arguably. the interests of one’s friends and family. I regard showing concern as doing what is right by others. 1979). So. I shall try to sketch such a theory in the next section. There are strong and weak versions of equal concern on this reading. I favour a second conception of what it means to show concern. After all. I might face the further objection that to accept the existence of positive egalitarian rights. According to one conception. sometimes doing what is right by others will involve giving more help to those abroad than at home. Indeed. However. where showing equal concern is a matter of doing what is right by everyone within the universe of concern. I think that it is important to bear in mind a distinction between two conceptions of showing concern. That being said. Peter Singer. in this case. it might be right to provide more assistance to people in a foreign county hit by a natural disaster which they could not have purchased insurance against through no fault of their own than to people at home struck by a similar disaster where they could have chosen to buy insurance but were too stingy and myopic to do so. strong equal concern seems incredibly demanding and implausible. in his Mortal Questions (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 93 Thomas Nagel. showing concern to everyone) does not necessarily mean treating others equally. what matters is not that people receive an equal amount of concern but that every person receives the right concern. More important yet is the fact that in relation to deontological concern.

One is whether non-liberal decent peoples have a moral right to immunity from foreign intervention forcing them to treat their own citizens more equally. to distinguish two somewhat different issues.95 This conception directs people in rich countries to rescue those in peril. ‘The Problem of Global Justice’. It seems to me that there might be a stronger case for immunity in the former case than in the latter. it is contested what the relevant principles of international morality should be. p. it matters to the world’s poor whether or not rich inward-looking political communities treat them with equal concern. for example. there is a second-order issue of fairness concerning the way in which the burden of reducing global inequality is to be distributed among those in a position to act. someone who supports the so-called ‘basic needs’ approach to international aid argues that intervention should be directed at ensuring patterns of growth that meet the basic needs of the target population and on providing primary social services on the ground with community 94 Rawls. not to bring about a more equal distribution per se. In the same broad family of views. they now use the rhetoric of rights to justify foreign intervention.458 A. Philosophy and Public Affairs. Brown non-liberal peoples. 59. it might be argued that any talk of rights could be insulting and counterproductive. 95 Thomas Nagel. Non-liberal peoples might take the historical view that whereas in the past Western powers used gun-boat diplomacy to subdue the rest of the world. But I also think that it matters to everyone else. I believe that we must be careful. 131.94 In fact. In so far as people living in poor countries have equally strong redistributive claims against wealthy non-liberal political communities as they do against wealthy liberal political cultures. . The Law of Peoples. especially if they have strong religious reasons to believe that some lives are intrinsically more valuable than others. however. A second issue is whether inward-looking political communities have immunity from rights to equal concern claimed against them by citizens in other countries. it is crucial (so the objection goes) that the justification must not depend on a conception of the person and conception of the intrinsic value of persons that is idiosyncratic to liberal peoples. No doubt. Non-liberal peoples might reject the notion of equal worth. There are obvious resemblances here with Rawls’ argument that liberal people must show due toleration for other acceptable ways of ordering society. 33 (2005): 113−147. Why should liberal states have to bear the entire burden of reducing global inequality when they are not alone in their wealth? Principles of Global Justice Even among those philosophers who accept the general idea that political communities owe some measure of concern to each other. Thomas Nagel believes that treating all people with concern is likely to mean that one has a duty to come to the rescue of people in foreign climes but that this duty directs countries only to step in the case of people who are in ‘immediate danger’. p.

pp. 293. 311. 97 Ronald Dworkin. 908. ‘What is Equality? Part 2: Equality of Resources’. rich countries should target those at the bottom regardless of the responsibility for poverty on the part of the government in the country affected and even where this means a short-term loss in growth for the recipient population taken as a whole. In particular. 99 Dworkin.) It is important to see that the view I am presenting here is a complex one in the sense that it recognises both negative duties to avoid harming others (including duties against exploitation and restrictive trade practices) and positive duties to transfer resources to (or to assist where appropriate) the victims of unchosen disadvantage. ‘Equality of Resources’. . One of the principal elements of equality of resources is the claim that the government must on pain of violating justice as equality allow the distribution of resources at any particular moment to be ‘ambition-sensitive’ but at the same time not to allow it to be ‘endowment-sensitive. On this view. rich countries also have a duty to transfer resources to poor countries to reduce any inequalities between them which are due to forms of brute bad luck. to transform this brief sketch into a full account.Are there any global egalitarian rights? 459 involvement wherever possible. ‘I believe that the primary egalitarian impulse is to extinguish the influence on distribution of both exploitation and brute luck. ‘On the Currency of Egalitarian Justice’. of course. p. I want to pursue an analogy between principles of global justice and Dworkin’s theory of equality of resources. ‘Basic Needs and Growth-Welfare Trade-offs’.’97 Pursuing a simple analogy between domestic and international justice one might say that although poor countries might bear some responsibility for the situations in which they find themselves. See Bruce Moon and William Dixon. One issue is whether or not Dworkin’s distinctions between ‘endowment’ and ‘ambition’ and ‘option luck’ and ‘brute luck’ can be applied coherently to the international stage given the great many differences between the actors and processes involved. 36 (1992): 191−212. To borrow a mode of expression used by G. International Studies Quarterly. While I do not have space to engage in this enterprise here. 311.96 Clearly. A.’98 It seems to me that this complex or pluralistic view provides as plausible an interpretation of the two principles of human dignity as any of the other leading alternatives in isolation. Much more work needs to be done. Cohen in connection with questions of domestic distributive justice. (It is open to debate whether the same duties fall on transnational corporations. 98 Cohen. but I wish to concentrate instead on developing a kind of global egalitarianism which is more egalitarian in nature as well as being responsibility-sensitive. Philosophy and Public Affairs. these are not entirely implausible views. no government can claim to uphold global rights to equal concern and respect that does not fulfil its duty to respect responsibility but at the same time ameliorate brute luck in other parts of the world. I do need to highlight two possible stumbling blocks.99 Another important issue is the extent to which inequalities caused by brute luck (including such things as shortfalls in natural 96 This approach came to the fore during the late 1960s and 1970s during which time Robert McNamara famously advocated the approach to the Board of Governors of the World Bank. and is in some respects more plausible. p. 10 (1981): 283−345. According to these principles.

We are asked to imagine that a group of shipwreck survivors are washed up on a desert island which has abundant resources and no native population.105 Even so. Miller believes that a community can support egalitarian principles of justice in this way only if its members possess a ‘shared identity’.102 The second circumstance occurs when a group of individuals happen upon a set of resources and ‘there are no relevant grounds for thinking that one person has a better claim than another to any given benefit or resource’. 191. p. or whether the relevant disadvantages are better conceived of in terms of capabilities. lack of talent. . The group accepts the principle that no one is antecedently entitled to any of these resources. ‘Equality of Resources’.103 Where does Dworkin’s theory of equality of resources fit into this distinction and could it be extended to the global level? This is a thorny issue. Brown resources. Consider the desert island example. Miller claims that the resources should be shared equally between the individuals irrespective of whether or not they are members of the same community. 285−286. whereas others can fit into the first set of circumstances but need not. The resources are manna from heaven. p. p. Miller draws an interesting distinction between two circumstances in which justice could demand equality. I think that the above sketch illustrates the important point that in weighing up the prospects for principles of global equality it matters which conception of equality is in play. In his ‘Justice and Global Inequality’.460 A.101 In fact. for example. 104 Dworkin. When people belong to groups of this kind. To treat people unequally would amount to a failure of recognition and respect. Amartya Sen. nobody has historical entitlement. Development as Freedom (Oxford: Oxford University Press. The first is when people are members of an association or community.100 Notwithstanding these complex issues. 101 Miller. 102 Ibid. poor climate and natural disasters) can be measured purely in terms of resources. there are no rights of discovery. but the short answer is that some aspects of Dworkin’s theory fit neatly into the second set of circumstances. 103 Ibid. 1999). it becomes a matter of justice that they should be afforded equal treatment with respect to those rights and other advantages that the group has been instituted to provide.. it is reasonably clear that any 100 See. there is no way to differentiate claims on grounds of desert or need—in these circumstances. for example. but that they shall instead be divided equally among them. it would be to declare that those who receive a smaller quota of advantages are not members in full standing but mere adjuncts. ‘common understandings or common purposes’ and an ‘institutional structure’ under which they all live. ‘Justice and Global Inequality’. 190. 192−193. 105 Miller. pp. They then agree to a Walrasian auction as a way of achieving equality of resources.104 Miller has reasons to think that the auction is not suitable as a way of achieving equality of resources around the world due to cultural differences in attitudes to how resources should be used.. 189. ‘Justice and Global Inequality’. pp.

the influence of brute luck in various dimensions. The question is not how individuals treat each other but how the world order treats people. ‘Equality of Resources’. p. 296−297. ‘Entitlements.. 108 Ibid. Miller might simply insist that comparative principles of justice cannot apply at the global level without a global community.Are there any global egalitarian rights? 461 plausible worldwide version of this thought experiment (properly amended) is likely to exemplify Miller’s second set of circumstances in which there are egalitarian rights even in the absence of a community. it is possible to view the shipwrecks as forming a community with the kinds of ties that Miller has in mind with his first set of circumstances. Obligations. 106 Dworkin.107 So. Another important part of Dworkin’s theory involves life after the auction in which the distribution of impersonal resources is affected by morally arbitrary inequalities in the distribution of native endowments and other forms of brute luck. If this is true.106 No doubt. It is by no means necessary to suppose that people share an identity and have a sense of common understanding and obligation in order to make intelligible their decision to purchase insurance for themselves. 180n. then to at least lessen. The question is: what kind and level of insurance against such risks would people around the world buy if they had the opportunity to do so? At this stage in the argument.14. and Distributive Justice’. p. Surely. We are asked to imagine a series of island insurance markets which are designed to. However. For this reason I wish to focus instead on a different flaw. however. it might be possible to extend Dworkin’s theory to the global level by thinking about global hypothetical insurance schemes which protect people against such things as lacking native talent or in being subject to certain insect-borne diseases or in relation to natural disasters. does the idea of such insurance need to appeal to something like an island community in order to be intelligible? I believe that it can make sense to pose the insurance question to the shipwrecks even if they regard each other as strangers. 295. there are certain things that I may not do − if he is ill or in pain I must do what I can to help him—but it makes no sense for either of us to try to apply comparative principles—for instance to insist on equality in some respect. 171. 107 Miller. he writes: In an encounter with a stranger from another community. for example. p. .109 However. then it has obvious implications for the present discussion on international justice. pp. if not eliminate. 109 Caney. I think that Miller could simply change the example so that we imagine an encounter between a rich country or trans-national organisation and the members of a poor village.108 Simon Caney has argued in response to Miller that principles of global justice should be directed at institutional structures rather individuals. ‘Limits of Cosmopolitan Justice’.

and it seems to me that it does make sense for the stranger to insist on equality in this respect. But is there any more substantive sense? Suppose the stranger requests that I lessen a morally arbitrary inequality between us by giving him some of the resources which I received through brute luck. it might be countered that. I think that it depends on which respect. there is one obvious sense in which I must treat him as an equal.462 A. it is important to recognise the fact that being the member of one political community rather than another can be. see Thomas Scanlon. a matter of brute luck. As Dworkin himself argues. namely. 110 For more on this general approach to moral justification. those that seek the elimination of arbitrary inequality. However. Putting the same point another way. What We Owe to Each Other (Cambridge. What I am suggesting. He did not choose to be born into a separate community. The result is that in trying to justify my decision not to eliminate one form of arbitrary inequality between us I have unwittingly assumed the legitimacy of another form of arbitrary inequality. Discriminating on the basis of community membership does not merely signify a dilution of such an egalitarian ideal but is directly ruled out by it. It is on the basis of this reason that I attempt to justify my decision not to show equal concern for his life. I know very little about him and do not share his community. it seems to me that at this point the stranger might reasonably reject this reason on the grounds that it is arbitrary from a moral point of view that he and I are strangers. Of course. 1998).: Harvard University Press. I must at least try to justify my actions to him on grounds which he cannot reasonably reject. . What does this mean? One way of understanding the idea of a moral universe is to say that I must justify my actions to other moral agents on grounds which they cannot reasonably reject. this demand is a bounded value: it is something that is required only within a political community of the requisite sort. for Dworkin. is that Dworkin has failed to take sufficiently seriously his own egalitarian principle that a just distribution is one in which the impacts of brute luck are neutralised as much as possible. That I owe anything to the stranger presumably has to do with the fact that we share at least a moral universe if not a community. Brown Is it true to say that it makes no sense for either of us to insist on equality in some respect? Once again. in effect. after all. insisting that principles of justice only apply within states overlooks one major set of principles. I then mull over whether or not to accept this request and how I might justify my decision to the stranger. namely. people do not choose the countries into which they are born and do not always have a real opportunity to move. and often is. I might decide to ignore his request quite simply because he is a stranger to me.110 The hard question here is whether or not I can justify my decision not to treat others equally on grounds they cannot reasonably reject. But. since to discriminate on the basis community membership is to uphold a major kind of arbitrary inequality. there again. On this reading. In which case. The stranger reasonably rejects both reasons on the grounds of a conception of equality that says quite simply that morally arbitrary inequalities should be eliminated. Mass. it is difficult to see how this restriction can be maintained once we recognise the deeper principles of ethical individualism on which such values are based and the larger moral context in which they must be interpreted.

This raises a further moral question. although it might be considered praiseworthy for rich countries to make wise choices for the sake of being in a position to assist others in the future. 112 Miller. pp. short of coercion there is much that individuals. it does not necessarily make it impossible. There is. ‘Justice and Global Inequality’. Nevertheless. Not only does the absence of a unified global authority make it difficult to identify the relevant duty-bearers but it also makes it difficult to see how compliance among any putative duty-bearers is to be enforced. I accept that in some instances coercive intervention might be the only effective way of ensuring that duty-bearers fulfil their duties in accordance with justice as equality. 190−191. therefore. it takes no stand on how agents ought to behave except where other standards of international justice apply. but I can at least make the following observations. . this is superogatory. pp. The first is that although the abstract nature of the egalitarian rights which underpin obligations in respect of reducing social and economic inequalities renders it difficult to identify duty-bearers at the international level. the considerable difficulty of identifying the relevant duty-bearers among a matrix of actors on the world stage including transnational organisations. substate entities. governments and trans-national organisations can do to persuade. encourage and cajole other agents to recognise 111 Nagel. ‘The Problem of Global Justice’. that states are the largest units to which principles of equal moral concern can apply. One possible answer is this: the victims of bad brute luck around the world have global egalitarian rights against the beneficiaries of good brute luck. small groups and even individual citizens.112 These are profoundly intricate issues which deserve a far more lengthy treatment than I can hope to offer here. My second observation speaks to the issue of enforcement. 115−116. Nagel argues that there can be no principles of distributive justice without a single coercive agency to ensure compliance among separate individuals and. What should we say about agents that have in the past been in a position to assist others and no longer find themselves in this position due to their own deliberate and calculated gambles? In other words. however. the responsibility to show equal concern and respect must somehow be assigned elsewhere. Consequently. Thus. Justice as equality demands that brute luck is neutralised and voluntary choices paid for. Beyond that.Are there any global egalitarian rights? 463 Finally. then. Given that the world of states is not at present governed by a single sovereign and is not a fraternity with clearly defined egalitarian obligations. states. do rich countries have a duty to maintain their wealth such that they remain in a position to assist others? My own hunch is that there is no such duty.111 Miller also suggests that one of the main reasons why we cannot condemn global inequalities is because there is no single global agent which oversees the allocation of resources within the universe of distribution. One noticeable implication of this way of seeing the situation is that positive global egalitarian duties will typically only fall on those moral agents who are in a position to offer assistance qua the beneficiaries of good brute luck. I wish to address the twin objection that positive global egalitarian rights are all well and good in theory but cannot be applied in practice because of the problem of identifying duty-bearers and compelling compliance among them.

Even in the absence of a world state. Béatrice Han-Pile. Fabian Schuppert and Julio Montero for their useful questions and suggestions on those occasions. I think that it is possible for what one might call a coalition of the concerned to exert a not inconsiderable degree of social. ch. Acknowledgements Earlier versions of this article were presented at the University of Essex. 2005). I am grateful to Joel Smith. 113 For a much fuller treatment of the issue of securing compliance without a world state. Saladin Meckled-Garcia. Basak Cali. Italy. Mario Solis. Department of Philosophy Seminar.113 At the very least it is incumbent upon those countries that do believe in the existence of such rights to set an example that may in time be followed by others. Even if this type of pressure is easier to withstand and less systematic than the type of pressure that could be exerted by a global leviathan with a monopoly on coercive power.464 A. . Pisa. which benefited greatly from her attention to detail. see Simon Caney. Chiara Cordelli. and at the International Justice and Human Rights section of the Annual Conference of the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR). it does not follow that duties of global egalitarian justice cannot be enforced whatsoever. economic. Brown their global egalitarian duties. 5. legal and diplomatic pressure on rights- disregarding global players. 8 February 2007. I would also like to thank Laura Vallentini for taking the time to read and comment on a pre-publication draft. 8 September 2007. Justice Beyond Borders: A Global Political Theory (Oxford: Oxford University Press.