Equity and Justice

J. Mohan Rao, Ethan B. Kapstein and Amartya Sen

in Global Public Goods

Published in print July 1999 | ISBN: 9780195130522
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199867363 | DOI:
 Equity and Justice

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Economic and cultural globalization seem to have ushered in an awkward and potentially unstable period of transition for the world. Even if one supposes that free trade and unrestricted capital mobility can eventually result in global factor price equalization and international equality, the transition may take decades if not centuries. At stake are questions of how to distribute the costs incurred, and the benefits to be derived, by cooperative action to create global public goods or minimize global public bads. Questions of equity are also implicated in the origin of the global problems themselves. International negotiations are influenced by unequal economic and bargaining strengths and the diverse stages of development at which nations find themselves.

The basic argument of this chapter is that equity and distributional criteria must be at the core of a global public goods framework for international cooperation. There are several reasons behind this. First, equity and justice promote cooperative behavior, itself needed for the provision of public goods. Second, when the system is perceived to be fair and equitable, nations will participate in it willingly. Third, global equity is itself a public good that, without cooperation or coercion (i.e., in a decentralized setting), may be undersupplied. The undersupply may be because, e.g., there is no private market through which nations or individuals may meet their need to give.

Thus, the first section of this chapter sets the stage by outlining the continuing role of inequality among nations in shaping the world. The second section considers the potential instrumental value of social cohesion in public goods supply (equity for public goods). After that, the chapter considers how distributional factors affect the demand and supply of public goods. Then, it pursues the proposition (originally from Thurow, 1971) that the distribution of income is itself a public good. The final section offers conclusions. The rest of the chapter illustrates the value of equity for the production of public goods, in the distribution of public goods, and as a public good itself.

Keywords: equity; global public goods; Hegemonic stability theory; income distribution; international negotiations; prisoner's dilemma; social cohesion

Chapter.  859 words. 

Subjects: Public Economics

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