Chapter

Distributive Justice as an International Public Good

Ethan B. Kapstein

in Global Public Goods

Published in print July 1999 | ISBN: 9780195130522
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199867363 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0195130529.003.0006
 Distributive Justice as an International Public Good

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Global equity is sometimes identified with international equity. The two, however, are very different notions – both in terms of their constitutive contents and with respect to their policy implications. This chapter examines the nature of the distinction. Its implications for the understanding of global public goods are quite extensive. Ideas of justice and corresponding actions that cut across borders must not be confused with international relations in general, or with demands of international equity in particular. Individuals live and operate in a world of institutions, many of which operate across borders. Even though different commentators have chosen to focus on particular institutions (such as the market, the democratic system, the media or the public distribution system), we have to consider them all to be able to see what they can do, individually or jointly. Many of these institutions – not just the market mechanism – cut vigorously across national boundaries and do not operate through national polities. They make contributions that have strong elements of indivisibility and nonexclusiveness that are characteristic of public goods, and their claim to be seen as “global public goods” is quite strong. The literature has to take note of this important issue. Nonstate actors, operating across borders, are often at the forefront of global norms and standards of equity and justice. People's judgment on what is just and fair depends only marginally on their citizenship, and more on their personal and professional identities. So, in essence, justice has an inescapable global quality.

Keywords: distribution; equity; fairness; global public goods; inequality; justice

Chapter.  11384 words. 

Subjects: Public Economics

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