The distribution of justice on a global stage in times of rapid globalisation is a topic of much contention due to issues such as morality and practicality.
On one hand, statists defend the view that distributive justice should be restricted to a domestic level, whilst cosmopolitans stand in favour of extending it to the global level. I aim to argue that shared membership to a state that binds fellow-citizens is not such to justify that we owe more to them, as a matter of justice, than we do to others, on the grounds of both relational and non-relational factors. For the purpose of this essay, what we “owe” in relation to the question will be understood as our positive and negative duties of justice towards fellow-citizens and others. In the first section I will define the terms ‘fellow-citizen’ and ‘owe’ and the implications such definitions have for distributive justice. Secondly, I will assess the relational argument for distributing justice while drawing on the existence of global institutional order and its implications in distributive justice. Third, I will explore the significance of borders and the scope of institutions in determining the scope of justice.
I. Defining key terms and its implications for distributive justice Defining the concept of ‘fellow-citizen’ requires its comparison to ‘fellow-national’ in order to better understand our duties of justice. When one shares citizenship, this means that he/she has a shared membership to a political entity, namely, a state.
The term ‘fellow-citizen’ can therefore be considered an “objective reality of the identity between state and society.” (Palmowski, 2008, p. 89) In contrast, nationality is relatively subjective, in that, there is a degree of sentimental value it holds. This indicates that, as groups, ‘fellow-citizen’ and ‘fellow-national’ do not coincide, as there need to be a distinction from the “value of national self-determination among fellow-nationals to the requirement for partiality for fellow-citizens.
” (Miklós, 2009, p. 123) Therefore, when discussing our duties of justice towards fellow-citizens and others, we adopt this objective definition in considering whether shared membership to a state is such to justify that we owe more to them than we do to others. In doing so, we are less concerned with Miller’s argument concerning nationalist attachments being intrinsically rather than instrumentally valuable in order to justify distributing justice within the domestic realm (Miller, 2005) as we are concerned with citizenship as an objective form of identity which does not carry with it sentimental value as nationalism does. With that in mind, what has not been discussed is the instrumental justification offered by nationalists that fellow-citizens are more entitled than others on the grounds of being better positioned to account for one another’s interests (Goodin, 1988). According to Goodin, this would make it more practical and just to prioritise fellow-citizens over others as it would be more efficient than extending our duties beyond borders to those that are not subjected to the same institutions that characterise the nation to which we belong. However, such an argument is not entirely plausible as it predisposes that as fellow-citizens we share more than just a legal status but historical consciousness, culture and values to therefore have one another’s interests at heart. Furthermore, the argument concerning our association as fellow-citizens being grounded by the subjection to institutions can be extended beyond borders due to the existence of global institutions as discussed in greater depth later on in this essay.
As for what the term ‘owe’ entails in terms of justice, we must distinguish between positive and negative duties. Rawls’ defines positive duties as a “duty to do good for another” while negative duties “requires us not to do something bad.” (Rawls, 1971, p. 114) This essay will be concerned with our negative duties of justice, to not act unjustly by inflicting harm on others, as detailed by Pogge. The implications this has for distributive justice has much to do with the observation that inhabitants of developed countries do, to a large extent, benefit from imposing “unjust institutional orders on others” (Armstrong, 2012, p.
24). Moreover, while a compromise could be reached regarding positive duties, which nationalists, or even realists defend should not apply to citizens owing anything to those outside their community, it is questionably immoral to accept that we do not then have negative duties of justice.