Published on November 29, 2007
Eradicating Systemic Poverty: Brief for a Global Resources Dividend : Eradicating Systemic Poverty: Brief for a Global Resources Dividend Thomas Pogge Poverty: Poverty Of the six billion people on earth, 790 million don’t have adequate nutrition, a billion lack safe water, 2.4 billion don’t have adequate sanitation… (604) If the U.S. had its proportionate share of deaths from poverty more people would die each month than died in Vietnam. Duties: Duties We have positive duties to help and negative duties to avoid upholding and profiting from unjust regimes. Positive : Positive The positive case is made easily – if we could help those that are in bad straights we should. The cost of this approach is that some think this we must only do this when it is cheap or when people are close to us. Negative: Negative Pogge argues that we have a negative duty to stop supporting an unjust institutional system that keeps the poor down. Inequality: Inequality There is radical inequality: The worse off are very badly off It is hard for them to improve their lot and most of the better off will never know what its like Inequality effects almost all aspects of our lives It is avoidable. Venus: Venus Suppose we find out that there is radical inequality between us and Venetians. Would we have an obligation to help them? Are we contributing to injustice, to their misery, if we don’t help? The Argument: The Argument He argues that when 1) shared institutions negatively impact individuals, when 2) the poor are excluded (without compensation) from using natural resources, and when 3) their poverty is a result of a shared violent history there is injustice. Violations: Violations If we coercively maintain unjust inequality we are violating our negative duty not to benefit or contribute to injustice. If so, we’re required to alter the current institutional system. The First Approach: The First Approach Shared institutions negatively impact individuals’ lives. The institutional system is “shaped by the better off and imposed on the worse-off.” (605) It produces radical inequality to which there is an alternative. This inequality doesn’t result from extra-social factors. Imposition: Imposition The institutional system is “shaped by the better off and imposed on the worse-off.” (605) Through the rules of trade, loans, bribes, aid, sex tourism, exports etc. Through our consumption and production choices. Alternatives: Alternatives It produces radical inequality to which there is an alternative. If there were a different institutional structure fewer people might be poor. Compare different national regimes to see this. Endogenous: Endogenous This inequality doesn’t result from extra-social factors. Extra-social factors are things like genetic handicaps or typhoons. It is the structure of international rules that contributes to a lot of suffering. Some people are born in poor families and countries with much worse life prospects than others. Causes: Causes People might resist the idea that they are implicated in causing poverty because they are use to thinking about local factors are causes (not remote ones). Corruption: Corruption Sure corruption is a problem in developing countries but it is exacerbated by foreign firms bribing developing country officials. War: War Sure wars are a problem for developing countries but the sale of arms to bad governments and rebel groups does not help. Trends: Trends Sure poverty is declining in some places but the larger pattern is disturbingly stable, inequality is increasing and poverty is devastating. Rules: Rules He thinks that we needn’t undo interdependence but rework the rules structuring international interaction. The Second Approach: The Second Approach The poor are excluded (without compensation) from using natural resources. Compensation: Compensation The rich consume a lot without compensating the poor. The affluent pay the affluent to do so. Rich Saudis own the oil, not poor ones. Locke: Locke This might be O.K. if all were better off with because of the current economic set up. If the Lockean proviso were satisfied appropriation might be O.K. If it were lifted with universal consent that might be O.K. too. Even if all could rationally consent to this that might be O.K. …: … But none of these conditions hold! 18 million annual die of easily preventable poverty-related causes. They surely wouldn’t be able to rationally consent to this. Many are born in very bad conditions because others own all of the goods already. …: … “citizens and governments of the affluent states are therefore violating a negative duty of justice when they, in collaboration with the ruling elites of the poor countries, coercively exclude the poor from a proportional resource share.” (608) The Third Approach: The Third Approach Poverty is a result of a shared violent history there is injustice. Massive wrongs have led to the current distribution of wealth Even if one rejects the first two approaches this one may hold. History: History Colonization, slavery, and genocide destroyed native institutions and cultures on four continents. Sure those of us who have benefited may owe extra restitution to those who have suffered, but all of us uphold the inequalities and are responsible for that. Non-identity: Non-identity With different institutions different people might be starving in Africa now, but those that are starving now are starving because our institutions were (and are) in place. Resources: Resources The second approach is the most demanding the others would allow almost any better alternative. It says those who use more resources should compensate those who use less. He suggests a global resource dividend (GRD) tax on used natural resources. Taxes: Taxes Once the inequalities are eliminated the tax may be small. He suggests one percent of global product to start. We currently give $52 billion, he suggests $300 billion. This is less than the U.S. alone spends on the military. We could easily raise the money by taxing oil alone. It would have good environmental consequences. Dignity: Dignity The money should help people live dignified autonomous lives. It should be given in a transparent efficient way that creates good incentives. It should meet need. Only 8.3% of current development assistance goes to basic needs, only 21% to least developed countries (611). World Government?: World Government? This wouldn’t require a world government but sanctions would be necessary. Burden of Proof: Burden of Proof He thinks he has done enough to shift the burden of proof to those who want to show that the current institutional order is just. Doing Our Part: Doing Our Part Even if we can’t expect the injustice to be addressed soon we must do our part in trying to bring about change. It is important to realize our role in contributing to global poverty. Besides it may be dangerous not to help. Optimism: Optimism We’ve walked on the moon, brought down the Berlin wall, ended slavery, who knows? Change is possible. We only need to come to one shared political decision to implement a GRD.