Negative duties and the libertarian challenge

Pablo Gilabert

in From Global Poverty to Global Equality

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199639717
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191739033 | DOI:
Negative duties and the libertarian challenge

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A defense of basic positive duties of justice must address the standard libertarian objections to the enforcement of assistance. Focusing on Jan Narveson’s contractarian construal of libertarianism, section 3.2 shows that it does not provide a clear rationale for distinguishing between informal duties of virtue and enforceable duties of justice, can neither successfully justify libertarianism’s protection of all negative rights nor its denial of all positive ones, and fails to undermine the claim that basic positive duties are duties of global justice. This book, however, does not neglect the importance of negative duties for global justice. Section 3.3 assesses Thomas Pogge’s negative duties-based account. It claims that although this account is right to argue that negative duties are crucial, it is wrong to only focus on them. Harming the global poor by causing their poverty provides a sufficient but not a necessary condition for the global rich to have a duty of justice to assist them. Reference to fundamental, nonderived basic positive duties of justice is also crucial.

Keywords: libertarianism; negative and positive duties; duties of virtue; duties of justice; global poverty; Jan Narveson; contractarianism; Thomas Pogge; harm; human rights

Chapter.  18858 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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