Thursday, May 7, 2009

Practical application of the theoretical proposals

Like many of the other blog participants my concerns about Chapters 8 and 9 and the proposals outlined therein stems from its implementation and enforcement. The questions raised deal less with the theory behind the proposals, which I think Pogge explains fairly well in general, and more with the practical application of such a proposal.

The proposals in Chapter 8 and 9 both call for some redistribution of wealth and resources, which, no matter the plan, would be hard to implement. Though it might be the morally correct action, few countries or people are going to sign on for this, regardless of how much moral momentum this might accumulate. Even though the proposed amount that he included as a means of building the GRD is small, I still think any policy shift would meet with considerable resistance.

Beyond persuading countries and taxpayers to accept and internalize these proposed solutions, there’s the matter of who will collect the money and how it will be distributed. These are not insurmountable problems, but are another example of where Pogge’s arguments have failed to cross from the theoretical to the practical.

While part of me wants to believe that as a global society people would be willing to address poverty and the illnesses it engenders, another part is cynical that such measures would ever appear in policy and work in the way Pogge intends if they did.


First, my post that I just wrote for the blog (the same one I'm writing now) was deleted immediately when I finished it. Thanks Blogger haha.

Ok, back to Pogge. The GRD idea intrigues me for three reasons.

First-accountability. This refers to those who would be recieving assitance from the GRD. My worry is that those individuals will develop a dependence on GRD funds instead of becoming more self-sustaining with the extra help. I realize one reply may recognize dependence is better than the current alternative. I feel the point of the GRD, or any relief effort, aims to provide relief not with greater long-term outlook than short-term. Consider this: We live in a world of limited resources. If we recognize that our resources available keep shrinking and our population keeps growing, we must have some way of making people self-sufficient eventually or the GRD would be ineffective in assisting the new individuals needing assistance in the world.

Second-who contributes and how and distribution. I'm disappointed that Pogge fails to speak more clearly as to how his plan would be acted in specifics. Unfortunately for this reader, Pogge leaves many of the most important decisions to economists and international lawyers. The very issues that he leaves to economists and international lawyers, though, are some of the biggest obstacles for him to overcome. For instance, the distribution of funds gained from the GRD. Or what if a majority of the comparatively wealthiest countries do not want to contribute to the GRD, instead creating domestic programs similar to the GRD? Basically, I wish his theory would be a bit more developed in these areas, though I recognize this is indeed a difficult task.

Third-GRD is...well...interesting. If the standards could be universalized in collection and distribution of GRD funds, I think Pogge may have a viable process in attempting to curb world poverty. The whole concept, though, needs more development in order to be viable. I look forward to class discussion of the viability of the GRD.

Last Chapter

Last Chapter

Thomas Pogge’s last chapter in his World Poverty and Human Rights provides the justification in why we are responsible for world poverty and offers, what I think, a solution to the problem of world poverty. On page 199, Pogge provides three ground of injustice; these are “effects of shared social institutions, the uncompensated exclusion from the use of natural resources, and the effects of a common and violent history.” The one that caught my attention was the second principle, the uncompensated exclusion from the use of natural resources. He later explains brings interesting condition, in addition to the other conditions on page 198,199, and 203, to consider: “The better-off enjoy significant advantages in the use of a single natural resource base from whose benefits the worse-off are largely, and without compensation, excluded” (202).
This makes me supports an idea, that is not new and I think common, that the rich nations of the world benefit from the poor nations, such as mining and oil operations and manufactories productions. Therefore, this makes me think two things about the second principle. One, since a rich nation is benefiting from the poor nation, while excluding them too, then makes me believe that the rich nation enjoy and furnish on the benefits and forget or disregard where or how they are getting them. And two, those born within a rich nation understand or think about the people suffering and work twice as harder to get natural resources to the rich nations.
In addition, I think the knowledge of world poverty is key factor in this issue. It reasonable to believe that if people, in a rich nation with all necessary and addition resource in their disposal, who probably never consider the fact that there would be people suffering horribly and dying for the rich nation’s benefits and resources. Again, if a person doesn’t see it, hear it, or think about world poverty, then it wouldn’t even be considered bad or good. However, even if we heard about world poverty and that we were responsible for it; then I would think that information would be discarded because it provides a unpleasant feeling towards the people of the rich nation. I think Pogge first paragraph of his conclusion is a powerful statement.
“We are familiar, through charity appeals, with the assertion that it lies in our hands to save the lives of many or, by doing nothing, to let these people die. We are less familiar with the assertion examined here of a weightier responsibility: that most of us do not merely let people starve, but participate in starving them. It is not surprising that our initial reaction to this more unpleasant assertion is indignation, even hostility – that, rather than think it through or discuss it, we want to forgot it or put it aside as plainly absurd.” (214)
---Thomas Pogge

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Pogge puts forth a proposal called the GRD, if the statistics he puts forth are correct, I think that this is a very good idea; however, I have major doubts that this is nothing but a theoretical solution to the problem. I don’t disagree with him on many grounds of his theory, but my main problem is, to what degree is any of this a realistic solution. “Idea that the global poor own an inalienable stake in all limited natural resources.”(202) I don’t disagree with this, but on what grounds is this claim being made? It seems to me that if just the poor own a stake in it, then many other people, no matter how wealthy they may be, would want the same share in it. Also, I am not seeing how this claim is connecting directly with his claim on how institutions are contributing to the global crisis. It seems that he says we have a negative duty to change the institutions but then says the way to solve the problem is to establish this GRD, is this how he is suggesting that our negative duty should be fulfilled? A more practical claim in my opinion would be that there be a GRD within each country, but not a GRD on the global scale, where it is only going to the poor. Again, I don’t disagree; I just think that there would be an unfathomable amount of resistance for applying this type of distribution. I just don’t see how this is connected to our negative duty we are failing to fulfill. I agree with him that our institutions need to be radically altered but how is the GRD part of that? If anyone could make it clearer to me, that would be helpful.

In section 8.2.2 he says “Yes, the affluent often pay for the resources they use, such as imported crude oil. But these payments go to other affluent people.”(208) this just seems out place and to me doesn’t go along with the rest of his theory and argument. In section 8.1.1 when he talks about the institutions that seems to coincide with the last few chapters a lot more then this section. Also, in 8.2.3 when he is talking about how history has brought us here he says, “Without these crimes there would not be the actually existing radical inequality which consists in these persons being affluent and those being extremely poor.”(210) I understand that he says that history has brought us to this point considering slavery, genocide and etc., but again this doesn’t seem much more than an observation of history. He says that these are the three grounds for injustice, are these three it though? I think we need to act on this urgent issue. I’m just not seeing how these lasts two grounds really connect up or stand firm within his theory, even though there just grounds he is putting forth for injustice. I agree with the suggestion about the GRD, it just doesn’t seem to be plausible.

“We are violating a negative duty of justice insofar as we contribute to the harms it reproduces and insofar as we resist as we resist suitable reforms.”(216) part of the reform, at least from his perspective, is that we need to establish this GRD because the poor have received the short end of the deal throughout history and this potentially has created the problem. So would this GRD be some sort of compensation for the poor? Given that they have not been able to benefit from it as much as the people in the affluent countries. And if this is compensation for past actions (or lack thereof) then what else are the poor entitled to claim, on grounds of compensation? I agree 100% that our current institutions need to be reformed; I just think that the GRD is too theoretical and does not properly fit in, given the rest of his theory.

every time I read mortality my head would switch it to morality...annoying

This system where a drug company can choose to market a drug either as an essential drug for the public good or nonessential drug for the private market makes this system a very interesting one. It allows for drug companies to increase their profits by being able to work towards creating drugs that before would have not produced any where near enough money to cover the cost of development. Pharmaceuticals can make money on these drugs by labeling them as essential drugs which in turn will be sold for just above marginal cost or perhaps even less than marginal cost because the tab will be picked up by the wealthiest nations rather than by those in need of the medications. Yet, companies would still be able to sell the drugs that bring in the real money like Viagra and what not at the premiums they currently enjoy. This will allow the research field to increase which will offer more jobs in the developed world by allowing for more pharmacists in high paying research positions that would have previously been not worth the time. The cost this puts on the developed world Pogge argues would in the end not really be more than these countries already pay in relief aid, loans that never get paid back, and also reduce the chance of pandemics because diseases like SARS that started in poorer parts of poor countries would not have gone untreated until it made it's way into the developed world. All of this and we haven't even hit the ethical bonuses yet, I am rather impressed with this plan.
As far as the ethical bonuses go we would be eliminating the balancing act pharmaceuticals do between saving lives and making money by allowing them to do both. The developing world would also be able to build up moral credit by their paying for the drugs that will help eliminate some of the conditions that kill the poorest people on earth. Even if that is not enough for you, another bonus on the moral side is that you will be creating a healthy population of the worlds poorest which means they will be able to work more because they are not sick all the time. This may make it possible for some of them to achieve a level of existence where they can procure the basic needs for existence. This will be working to help eliminate severe poverty and also lesson the burden on governments to spend funds continually treating symptoms of the problems because they are unable to address the underlying causes of their lacking workforce.

My last post :(

My last post in college...crazy.

I'd like to talk about both the moral argument Mike brings up and the concern over distribution in his post. One is difficult to understand at a theoretical level, the other an implementation issue that exists among many.

I just want to comment on the creative brilliance displayed in these chapters. I'm at the point where I can understand the arguments being made, delineating between good and bad ones, and ask (what I take to be) interesting questions. But the kind of work done here takes real creativity and ingenuity. I just don't know how one goes about developing expansive and creative plans of action.

The pharmaceutical proposal is cool. In essence, Pogge argues that we redistribute resources in such a fashion that those that develop drugs get paid based on the effect that drug has on the world. It can be given to others, sold cheaply, and corporations can make money while at the same being humanitarian. What would be an argument against his proposal? Surely there are a number of bureacratic/logistical issues with such a reorganization, and it would be difficult to get folks to sign on, but can someone with more knowledge of pharmaceutical companies explain what their objection would be?

There are a number of reasons in favor: Building good will among the developing nations, job creation, cheaper drugs for the rich. What little I know about patent law tells me that this would, even with positive consequences, be very difficult to maneuver. There are too many people with too much power that have many well-established legal avenues to respond. I'd really like to go over the details of the plan so we can see how he proves that its so widely in self-interest and maybe how that could be spun to get people on board.

I'd also just like to reiterate that many of the argumenets Pogge advances are similar to Shrader-Frechette, just more widespread. They cite the same justifications based on advantage gained through being a member of the social order. I also think its important to note that Pogge emphasizes his claim that many of these social conditions are man made. It isn't genetics or natural disaster; certain groups have been robbed, divided, pushed together, moved entirely, and its a miracle that, given those facts, some cultures have survived.

The End

I’m hoping we can spend some time on Thursday unpacking section 8.4 (the moral argument for the proposed reform). It is really dense to me right now, and I think I would understand it better if we worked through it in class.

I found it very interesting that, according to Pogge, we could stop world hunger if we all paid $0.07 more per gallon of gas (a figure that seems to me to be within the normal fluctuation of gas prices) for just a few years (211-212 in orange). I’ve always thought of world hunger as this massive problem (and, I think many of Pogge’s empirical claims support this type of thinking), but I think the major flaw in my thinking was falling into those traps that Pogge discussed at the beginning of the book—that the problem is so huge that no one knows where to start. It seems that this $0.07 increase (barring the massive problems that would probably come from implementation) would be a very good idea.

My major concern, then, lies in the disbursement of these funds. If we assume that we can raise the necessary funds for the GRD, how can we divvy them out in a way that is fair and just? Pogge seems to suggest that we should rely upon expert knowledge (he suggests that we would need to consult economists and international lawyers), and he argues that transparency would be important to make sure that the process is fair. However, in making policy in America, we often rely on expert knowledge, and it doesn’t always work out because the experts become politicized (see, for example, the economy right now in relation to the suggestions of economists). Thus, I’m concerned (and this may just be a pessimistic view) that nearly any attempt to divide up this money would lead to immense political bickering which would, in all likelihood, either reduce the effectiveness of the GRD or render it completely impotent because no one can agree on what to do with the money.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The final pages of Pogge

In the final chapter 8, Pogge explains the GRD and systematically explains his argument. His proposal involves the share and consideration of natural resources as global and belonging to mankind all together. Pogge further explains how developed countries have a negative duty towars the starving poor because it is their policies that bring them to poverty. Although it is easier to assume that poverty is created locally in those societies, Pogge advocates responsiblity and action to prevent it. "This illusion conceals how profoundly local factors and their effects are influenced by the existing golbal order...The affluent countries have been using their power to shape the rules of the world economy according to their own interests and thereby have deprived the poorest populations of a fair share of global economic growth" (200-201).
Simply, Pogge suggests that those who make more extensive use of the planet's resources should compensate those who do not do so involuntarily. He also speaks about morality and the possibility of morality's influence in global politics. This part of the arguement is aimed at a "softer" side of people, and perhaps some will be motivated to change because of moral beliefs. I also agree with Pogge about the importance of EU and US involvement in the potential GRD. Such large polities' exclusion would not bring about the necessary changes.

How can we, as individuals, make sure that poverty is reduced? Pogge advocates institutional reform, but if there are not enough supporters this plan will not succeed? What if the "poverty eradicators" stay a minority? Surely, there are individual acts that can help, but I don't believe that those would be enough to make a fundamental difference. Would our best approach lie in a joint effort of instiutional reform, as suggested by Pogge?

Picking apart Pogge

Indira talked a bit about the seemingly top-down approach Pogge has to achieving democracy. I can see where this perception comes from, but at the same time feel that Pogge’s conception of requirements for and characteristics of a democracy call for the people to be engaged at all levels. Like Dagger, he speaks of the responsibility of the persons represented by the democracy, once again the vigilant citizenry as it were. By his definition, an achieved democracy centers around the will of the people who have not only the information to make educated decisions but the independence to be freed of coercive influences.

I can appreciate the theory of and rhetoric behind the Democracy Panel and Democracy Fund, but even if I presuppose that Pogge’s conception of sovereignty from Chapter 7 has been realized, I’m skeptical of its practical application and effectiveness. Pogge argues that by having even one country implement this type of amendments that the rest of the world will be swayed by the “moral momentum” this action will accumulate.

Based on the limited success of other global organizations like the U.N. and its predecessor the League of Nations, I see the current tangle of international politics as too snarled to simplify into the kind of ideal Pogge projects. Even were the different countries to internalize Pogge’s views on sovereignty, I still don’t see many of them authorizing military intervention or calmly allowing their fate to be adjudicated by this international power. As much as democracy is supposed to be about freedom, governing is essentially about control.

As others have noted, I’m skeptical that the Democracy Fund will remain funded or that the proposal to undermine the lending capabilities of nations will gain much traction. The cynic in me agrees that to decrease the incentives of a hostile takeover it makes sense to start with the money. Admittedly, I know next to nothing about international finance, so my next few comments might sound startlingly na├»ve or even flat out ignorant, but here goes.

When thinking of hostile takeovers and the individuals who launch these coup d’etats, I never got the impression that a low credit limit or high interest rate would really deter them. If one is going to use military force to promote authoritarian rule, what are the odds that you are that concerned about raising capital, either instead of the loans or to pay them, according to the legal guidelines. Would this not just encourage the leaders of these takeovers to see more nefarious sources of revenue? Also, we in the United States have basically ignored our national debt for years without too much issue. What is to keep these newly authoritarian countries from accumulating the debt and then ignoring it, as we have?

I do confess that I found chapter 6 to be much more interesting and much more accessible. I am still not quite clear of the connection he is trying to make between cosmopolitanism and sovereignty, a dialogue I feel is at the core of understanding this text in general. I have an idea of the pairing, but am looking to the class to help clarify the specific outline of the structure for Pogge’s connection.

Pogge - Chapters 6 & 7

I found chapter 6 to be effective, in that, it ties together his previous arguments regarding a need for a sense of shared responsibility with practical aspects of achieving democracy. One of the questions that I had as I read Chapter 6 is why Pogge focuses on what rulers within nations should do when the first part of his argument focuses on the global order. Although, I do understand why he would want to do this, in part (i.e. because these nations are all a part of the global order and therefore affect it), I still wasn't quite sure as to why, if Pogge states that we cannot blame world poverty on the poor countries and their leaders, he would take a bottom-up approach, instead of a top-down approach dealing with institutions. This concern was alleviated a bit in Chapter 7 as he discusses sovereignty and a top-down approach, so the two approaches seem reasonable to me when juxtaposed. I still question, though, what chances exist of a state limiting its own power, even if it is only in instances when its democracy might be compromised?

Another interesting aspect of Chapter 6 is the part about "invalid" transactions (170). Pogge's argument resounds with me here because, using the U.S. as an example, business practices here seem to be concerned, at least in theory, with ethics and ethical transactions, yet we seem to conveniently forget or ignore such practice on a global scale. Although, I'm not quite able to imagine his idea of a Democracy Fund being very effective in practice. I also had other reservations with regard to his arguments regarding under-developed states focusing on what they can do to enhance the global order when the citizens within such states do not have basic human rights, such as food and sanitation.

Lastly, I was so glad that Pogge discussed sovereignty reform in Chapter 7, because my earlier post on Chapters 4 and 5 had hinted that sovereignty plays a large role in this problem. I was really impressed with Pogge's conception of a vertical "dispersal" of sovereignty (187). His merging of cosmopolitanism and sovereignty is brilliant! As I was reading this part, I couldn't help but think of this international government, to which we owe our allegiance to, as opposed to the state governments that monopolize our current system. I can see many difficulties with this vertical approach, but I love the idea. If we shared this sense of a global community, perhaps our approach to human rights and social justice would be more effective and more in line with our notions of morality.

Monday, May 4, 2009


Throughout chapter six, Pogge starts to make his case for showing that the affluent democracies of the world are to blame for the unlevel playing to field. On pages 154 – 155, he establishes three considerations that a fledgling democracy should take into consideration and these three play a prominent role when evaluating how his theory fits together. He then goes through and examines a number of ways by which a fledging democratic government could establish as deterrent effects. In 6.2 part of his suggestion would be for the government to come to an agreement, prior to that of a coup, preauthorizing military intervention. In 6.3 he puts forth as part of his theory that debt should not carry over after an undemocratic ruling. And that this is part of the problem, if not a major part of the problem, because countries are held responsible for the debt their unjust predecessors accumulated. The idea of “the Democracy Panel” whose job it would be to monitor elections and monitor constitutions. And the monitoring of this panel would only be that of broad democratic constitutions. A problem arises concerning who will fund this panel and universal Democratic Fund. Much of the financial support would ultimately rests on riches and most powerful countries. It seems like a lot of his theory involves deterrent implications on the fledging democratic states. One problem I am having trouble with is how is this connecting with his problem of world poverty? Is it by promoting democracy worldwide, it would reduce war and decrease human rights problems such as poverty?

Would any of this lead us toward the idea of a one world government (considering his suggestions about a “Democracy Panel” and a world police)? Would a one world government, if plausible, be a better solution to the problem? It may be a bit theoretical, but I personally think it may be a better solution to the problem, if it is even plausible; but I think that if democracy could be established independently among every country, then this wouldn’t be too far of a stretch.

Pogge 6-7

I think Pogge's chapter 6 and prompted the following two thoughts when I read it.
First-a brief tangent. Pogge states on page 152 "Democracy involves voting--on political issues or on candidates for political offices--in accordance with the general idea of one-person-one-vote." (Pogge 152) After taking a class regarding Supreme Courts and election law last semester, though, this assertion seems controversial. That is because strict adherence to one-person-one-vote as the fundamental aspect of voting is an American ideal, but an international interpretation of democracy (at least that of Canada and Great Britain, among others) believes voting must only lead to effective representation. Although Pogge talks about other aspects of democracy, such as shielding the public from unmonitored coercion, I felt compelled to comment on this subject. Tangent over.
My second point is that, while Pogge addresses voting in the above statement, he fails to link voting as an aspect of stability. In my comparative politics course with Professor Williams, we discussed the idea that, statistically, countries able to hold three democratic elections (even if limited cheating is involved) are vastly more stable in the long-run compared to democracies unable to hold three consecutive elections. A major premise, then, is that our aid to developing democracies should be focused to the election infrastructure rather than making government infrastructures dependent on developed democracies. I believe that Pogge, if introduced to the statistical data behind these findings, would consider this another potentially viable solution.

Pogge-Chpters 6&7

I really enjoyed Pogge's discussion of democracy and its components, as well as the process by which it was possible to achieve it. He expected that his example of kidnapping and overtake of government would be a good parallel, and it was. It helped me better understand the difficulties of punishing after democratic order is restored. Also, I wanted to comment on his definition of democracy, because it brought a different idea for me. At the beggining of ch. 6 he writes that democracy should make voters "safe from extreme economic need and from arbitrary physical violence and pshychological duress, any of which might make them excessively dependant on each other". This part of the definition is not one commonly known; most times one will only hear the basic definition involving voting and representation. This is a nice addition to his overall idea, and how people need to be politically free, as well as independant to thrive.
In his discussion of the Democracy Panel, he speaks of the influence this panel may have in keeping coups away from taking over fledging democracies. Pogge thinks that an organization like the UN should be in charge of this panel, but I could not help but wonder about enforcement. This panel would have the power to determine whether the countries were under take over, and lending issues, but how would they enforce their desicions?
*Democracy involves the fulfillment not only of important rights, but also of important responsibilities of citizens. (166)
Prior to this he writes about the lack of involvement and awareness in affluent countries as well as developing ones. People are not well informed about foreign policies and international practices that their governments practice in their name. This reminds me a bit of Dagger, and his call for greater involvmenet and community. It is easy to ignore international happenings when one is preocuppied at home, yet those practices might lead to real suffering worldwide.

"Dispersing political authority over nested territorial units would decrease the intensity of the struggle for power and wealth within and among states, thereby reducing the incidence of war, poverty and oppression...borders can be redrawn more easily to accord with the aspirations of peoples and communities" (168-169).
This is quite intriguing to me, but I am not sure how feasible it would be. Through colonization and several world conflicts borders have been drawn in countries, languages changed and customes ignored. The west is largerly to blame for the suffering of developing nations because of its beliefs of superiority.

I wish he would have spent a litte more time writing about opression in 7.3.3. I agree with his suggestion of a multi-branch government, but a country that is facing serious problems as he mentioned might have a difficult time achieving this. Perhaps these countries would need an international forace that is non partisan, but this would infringe on their sovereignty.I hope we talk a little more about this in class.
Also, I hope we get to spend some time talking about the changes and shaping of political units.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Pogge on Democracy and Sovereignty

I’m hoping we can spend some class time on Tuesday unpacking the implications of Pogge’s proposed reconceptualization of sovereignty. I’m intrigued by the numerous consequences that it could have for international relations (a field of study that is almost completely dependent upon the idea of a system of sovereign territorial nation-states as a fundamental unit of analysis) as well as the fact that Pogge’s system seems to give almost total authority to citizens since they have the authority to realign themselves with a (super)majority vote. However, I’m left wondering if such a system could be viable in a place that does not have free and participatory elections; how would the people choose to realign themselves if they are not fee to vote as they please without fear of retaliation by the current government or regime?

Looking at chapter 6, I’m interested in spending time on the following statement of Pogge’s: “To the extent that citizens abandon their responsibility to control the power that is excercised in their name, their country is less than democratic” (172 in orange book; second-to-last paragraph in 6.4). With this said, it seems to me that Pogge would not classify the United States as a democracy because a vast segment of U.S. citizens do not exercise their “responsibility” (I think Pogge’s use of “responsibility” is also very telling) to control power through active participation in politics and government. With that said, I think this is another place where a conversation between Dagger and Pogge would be particularly fruitful and interesting. Both authors stress the importance of active and informed political participation (Pogge, it seems, now even goes so far to claim that a refusal to participate actively in democracy—to change flawed processes—implicates one in the violation of human rights even of individuals in other countries), yet Pogge specifically rejects much of the communitarian aspects (see his refutation of Walzer in 7) that Dagger depends upon. As such, I’m wondering what such a conversation would produce.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Community Organizing

Interesting link regarding community organizers -
I wonder what Dagger would think of this.

Whoah! Pogge really does not hold anything back...

In reference to the Nazi analogy, he states, “Given what they knew about the ongoing war and genocide and their own causal roles, they ought to have thought, and chosen, and then acted differently…And if this is how we think about most Germans in the early 1940s, then this is how we must surely think about ourselves, seeing that we enjoy so much more freedom to inform ourselves and to act politically” (151). Yes, Mike, this definitely got my attention too, very powerful. Although he states, “The point of this parallel is not to raise issues of blame or guilt,” but, that the “common point is thoughtlessness,” (151) this is really a strong parallel to make.
I do agree with his point of thoughtlessness, though. I was really pleased with Chapter 5, because when I read Chapter 4, with regard to the double standard, institutional responsibilities, and international recognition of groups in power, I couldn’t help but wonder how we have allowed such things to occur within our global order. My initial thought hinted at the way we view nations within the international sphere, and a specific question I had, when reading Chapter 4, deals with the role of sovereignty in shaping our existing global economic order. So, I was pleased when I saw that Pogge begins Chapter 5 with a discussion of nationalism.

I was intrigued by his discussion regarding particularistic and universalistic ‘variants’ of nationalism. This comment is probably only valuable to me and Erma, but this distinction is really useful in understanding how the Serbs viewed nationalism in their justification of the genocide on Bosnian people. But on a broader note, this conception of nationalism, especially the distinction between common and lofty nationalism that Pogge makes, is essential, I think, to understanding the double standard argument. Particularly, what I found really thoughtful and interesting, is Pogge’s discussion of the scope of acceptable partiality in terms of the double standard discussed previously in Chapter 4. He states, “How can we despise those who seek to slant the national playing field in favor of themselves and their relatives and yet applaud those who seek to slant the international playing field in favor of themselves and their compatriots?” (130).

The reason that this entire discussion makes me wonder what role sovereignty plays, is because of the way that state sovereignty trumps human rights within the scope of international law. As the sovereignty argument or justification goes, states may overlook problems across the world because they value sovereignty (which may be defined in various ways, but mainly referring to the independence of each state to self-governance in the way it sees fit), and because of this notion, powerful states, although they have the capability, often refuse to meddle in the affairs of other states, despite the fact that some of these other states may be infringing or harming human rights, so as not to overstep the limits drawn by the notion of sovereignty. Most, if not all, states mutually respect sovereignty, then, because the rest of the international community abides by this notion, and because no state wants its own sovereignty disrespected, all states end up playing by the notion of sovereignty (this is similar to Pogge’s point about the “sucker exemption” which he defines as “an agent” not being “morally required to comply with rules when doing so would lead to his being victimized by non-compliers” (133).). So, although Pogge does not specifically mention sovereignty or international law in this chapter, I think it does play a large role in the reason that nationalism is so prioritized over global justice in most peoples’ and government’s thoughts and actions.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Pogge makes several valuable points in Chapters 4-5 concerning dual standards of what is rights concerning economic poverty and nationalism. I was able to identify with Pogge's position, but there are several points which need to be made regarding his arguments.
These points all revolve around nationalism. Throughout the semester, we have examined authors claiming that the larger the group of people, the less cohesive a moral theory/unifying principle is in effect. This idea is applicable to nationalism, though regrettably so. The reason we have a contradictory sense of universal morality between nations and globally is that there isn't a cohesive bond at the global level (or, at least that bond isn't understood/felt by a majority of global citizens).
History shows us that humans have been slowly, yet surely, developing a recognition of group bonds on increasingly larger stages. Nationalism has only been a recent development in human history. Eventually, I think that our social progression will lead us to a state similar to what Pogge suggests. Currently, though, this isn't possible.
In order for Pogge's conception of universal morality, especially regarding poverty, to exist, I propose the following: A global government/order must be established and constituents of that government, which would consist of all humans (in theory), would have greater allegiance to the global govt./order than nations. Such an order would circumvent numerous problems the current system faces. For example, examine poverty in a country such as China. I believe that it would be difficult for some to justify assisting those citizens who are in a state of poverty that support the Communist regime. Not only that, but those same people may also conclude we are doing the job of the Chinese government--why are we doing this when poverty exists within our own country? Both these and many other objections could be stifled by the global govt./order proposal above. As Pogge mentions, the priority would then rest with helping those in greatest poverty (for the scenario above, I assume that there are more individuals in greater poverty located in China than the U.S.), though we would be obligated to help all we could.
I have a feeling there is much more to be said on this topic--I await class to write further blog posts on these chapters.


I found chapter five to be very interesting. I found him to be saying in 5.1 that the notion of nationalism has been taken to the extreme and by this, is in fact contributing to the problem from within. National partiality and family partiality are being tied up in one and create an unlevel playing field universally. Part of the problem is that compatriots, he argues, should take priority over foreigners, but under the current system is unacceptable. The solution, at least what he thinks, is that we need to get the current international playing field to look like that of some national playing fields, and get the partiality towards families altered along with the international playing field for compatriots. But the people who are establishing such an economic global order, have families that need to stay out of the global picture; while making their nation priority and considering the global status. Not an easy task…

He is now looking for a justification when practicing national partiality. But he must prove that the global economic problem is in large part traced back to the national stage. I like his example of how if a mom comes upon their child and they are hurt they give them priority over the others, but if the child’s injuries along with his friends injuries are the mothers fault, then priority goes to the child’s friends. “When the undue harms foreigners suffer are our own wrong doing, foreigners and compatriots are on par.”(139) and essentially he goes on to say that by honoring this (previous example) is not disloyal to one’s country. Our positive duty toward others is greater when dealing with compatriots, but our negative duty when it is our own doing is equivalent when dealing with foreigners. He goes on to challenge the first world citizen’s belief, that which is a positive duty to help the poor, not a negative one.

He says that the ‘common notion’ of poverty rests largely on the assumption that it is their own governments fault and short-coming to their own citizens and that the other wealthy nations do not have a positive duty to help and our negative duty is not the problem. Many of the people who are in the poverty stricken areas, he says are children and do not choose this for themselves. So the common assumption that they have chosen this or chosen their leaders or what not, is regardless of the fact that people don’t choose poverty. Another big problem is that when new leaders come into power, they inherit a mountain of debt from previous dictators and are essentially shut out of international financial markets. He puts forth a couple suggestions on what could be done but does he ever put forth how it is to be done?

Many things needed to be reformed or established, he argues, to bring an end to this problem. As Mike has pointed out, concerning his comparison to Nazi German, I found it to be a very BOLD statement (but possibly (?) very true). “And if this is how we must think about most Germans in the early 1940s, then this how we must surely think about ourselves.”(151) this is somewhat scary and repulsive, if this statement does indeed hold legitimacy, to compare our actions (or lack thereof) with the Germans in WWII.

there's no i in team...but there is in nation

I found the metaphor used early on in chapter five to be helpful in my understanding of the content of the chapter, mostly I think because of how much a sports fan I am. The metaphor was about how sports try to create level playing fields for the athletes. Moreover, "players also want games to be fair, to be structured so that the better team will tend to win" (sec.5.1 3rd pgh). However, as Pogge notes, there are added pressures associated with success on the major league level. Some players are concerned more with winning regardless (well almost regardless) of the cost. Beyond breaking the rules of play, some players go to sketchy, yet allowed, forms of play to help stack the odds in their favor. For example I doubt a player would poison another player. But he/she might be biased in arguing calls or even commit a violation on purpose in attempts of hurting/re-injuring another player for the opposing team. A problem soon arises when we begin to discuss what the idea of a level playing field means. Expanding on the metaphor further the players can symbolize entire nations and the game is about quality of life.
That being said, at the end of the chapter Pogge stresses as Mike pointed out in his post, a call to action. Pogge even goes as far as to say that "by continuing to support the current global order and the national policies that shape and sustain it without taking compensating action toward institutional reform or shielding its victims, we share a negative responsibility for the undue harms they foreseeably produce" (sec 5.4 1st pgh). It seems Pogge would like us all to be practice good sportsmanship in the game of life and play for the team (world population) and not for ourselves (individual nations). Keeping this in mind I can't help but wonder about what a universally accepted level playing field means or what it would look like.

Playing devils advocate I wonder if we can expand the sports metaphor further and suggest that Pogge is trying to be the coach of the team, telling the players how to play efficiently for the good of the time. As anyone who is a sports fan knows, there are many cases where players disregard the coach because of selfish interest or because they don't agree with the coaches philosophy. My question is what do we do when other players (nations) don't want to play for the team's sake and rather play for their own? We can't just bench or trade other nations.

Pogge 4-5

I didn’t post on Rawls for last class, so I thought I should spend a bit more time trying to unpack Pogge’s critique before class on Thursday since it seems like Rawls will be a major force in our discussion. I’ve only read idiosyncratic, anthologized excerpts of Rawls, so I’m going to try to piece together one of Pogge’s critiques as I understand it right now; feel free (anyone) to point me in the right direction if I’ve misread.

Rawls, in A Theory of Justice, sets forth a “difference principle” which states that inequalities in distribution are acceptable only if they are a part of a system that advantages the least advantaged individual within the system. However, he rejects this principle as a requirement of global justice because “it is unacceptable for one people to bear certain costs of decisions made by another” (111). I think I share Pogge’s confusion here. Why would Rawls say people are bound together by a communal decision under the veil of ignorance when it is on a national level but that decision would not apply on an international level? I feel like Rawls would have an answer here (this seems to be a fairly large issue), but maybe he doesn’t.

I was also struck by his powerful comparison between everyone who isn’t taking steps to change the global order and Nazi sympathizers at the end of chapter 5. While he makes the comparison in the conclusion to the chapter and then says that the point is not “to liken our conduct to that of Nazi sympathizers,” (something that I think may be a bit of an untruth—I think he wants us to make that comparison as part of a call to action—why else would he include it?) I think putting the two ideas side-by-side had a very powerful effect on me. Did others feel the same?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Concept of Poverty

A different concept of Poverty

I think it is interesting to point out what poverty is. When, I think about poverty, I think about people who have absolute nothing. People, who cannot find food, cannot find a job or even having the skills of maintaining a job; people who don’t have a decent place to sleep or take shelter, and most important from what I got from Pogge, don’t even have any human rights. Yet, to combine the concept of poverty and having no human right, never occur to me before.
On chapter 2, Pogge talks about how the government has the power to enforce laws, but at the same time, may have little enforcement in making the lower authorities to enforce the law or prevent any moral wrongs. (60). Pogge calls this “official disrespect” where the government may enforce the legal right of citizens, however disregard the humans’ right. There some instances that the government may not even enforce the laws that its creates; thus letting criminal and human rights violations act occur. “The government needs not organized or encouraged such activities – it merely stands idly by: fails to enact law that proscribe such conduct or, if such laws are on the books, fails to enforce them effectively” (61). Thus, the concept of human rights in such a government lets a person to become poor, since there are acts being committed to violate human rights through fear, economical, and force.
The other idea that Pogge brings up is the concept of the servant or the slave. “In some of these societies, inhuman or degrading treatment of domestic servants by their employers is perfectly legal…most of the servants are ignorant of their legal rights, conviction for mistreatment are difficult if not impossible to obtain, punishments are negligible” (63). It is interesting to see that when the word poverty is mention, it is usually attach to poor people and their situation. It never seems to be about their legal or human rights. In this case with the servant, not only is the servant poor and has to work as a servant and be treated badly, but s/he cannot exercise their demand for rights for anything, with the consist fear of being jobless and worse off than s/he is now as a servant. So poverty, to me, is not only about having no food, money, job, and/or shelter, but it is also about not have the right to exercise or claim any rights; which, then, traps a person within poverty.

Pogge on human rights

I found it interesting that Pogge draws a distinction between legal human rights and moral human rights, mainly because I have not heard or thought of this distinction before. He draws on this distinction to discuss how human rights should be conceived and what they assert, particularly in relation to correlative responsibilities. “The fact that some formulated right has all the conceptual features of a human right does not entail that it exists (can be justified as such)…” (59) and this is where the moral arguments are important. His distinction also becomes important when he points out the contradictions within our system of human rights laws. He provides this example, “…a government may legally bind itself never to violate human rights and yet do nothing or very little to ensure that its various agencies and officers abide by this official prohibition” (66). This means that governments cannot be solely responsible for legal human rights, but that a conception of a moral right is important because “While the government may, then, be the primary guardian of human rights and the prime measure of official disrespect, the people are their ultimate guardian on whom their realization crucially depends” (69). Therefore, the attitude of the people plays a large role in guarding human rights. This part of Pogge’s argument is similar to Dagger’s, in that, citizens need to be actively engaged in political life to preserve these rights. This ‘interactional’ conception is similar to Dagger’s argument of civic virtue and involved citizens.

Monday, April 27, 2009


The first part of chapter two was pretty straight forward. He is looking at how human rights should be conceived. He traces human rights back to their origins, or at least back to an earlier notion of where they evolved from – natural law. But once natural law is examined he says, “It need not involve demands on one’s conduct toward other subjects at all and, even if it does, need not involve the idea that by violating such demands one has wronged these subjects.”(61) And this is different from that of natural rights because he says, “involves significant narrowing of content possibilities by introducing the idea that the relevant moral demands are based on moral concern for certain subjects; right holders.”(61) So essentially by narrowing the category, the language used today for human rights, evolved from this transition, and he goes on to break it down into four sections of the significance of human rights. I found it interesting how the notion of human rights hold an official stance and cannot be violated by just anyone, but governments and leaders specifically and not by petty criminals.

When he talks about official disrespect, is he talking about specifically the violation of human rights? Or does the violation of human rights fall under a larger category than just officials? Also, which side is he promoting in section 2.4, from my account he isn’t promoting the libertarians side because they only require negative duties, but is he promoting the maximalist side (that of positive and negative duties)? It seems to me that he is, but perhaps the maximalist side is to dramatic and is also rejecting that too.

I found chapter three to be very interesting. Specifically the part when he talks about types of incentives and how if our current morality provides ideal incentives that are regrettable by its own light, then do we have good reason to revise our current notion of morality. Our current morality is as such, or so it seems, that if we hire a middle man, we will be able to wipe our hands clean, even though we know full well what they will do before we hire them. If this is the correct take on it, then it seems that this is what so many people do to get out of having responsibility and essentially he concludes that they are not guilt-free by hiring a middleman. I know there was a lot of more going on in this chapter, but this is what I picked up on. If we could go over chapter three briefly that would help.

In 4.1 on page 98, he lays out the criteria for a universalistic concept (in this case social justice). But why is he doing this? Chapter four was difficult to follow. One area I was thoroughly lost in and didn’t know what was going on was when he starts talking about in 4.5 David Millers contextualism and 4.6 John Rawls. I understood he disagreed with Rawls on a number of fronts, but why is this distinction important for his theory?

In section 4.8 he says, “many citizens of the affluent countries are convinced of this…these people believe that, for such progress to occur, the poor countries themselves must get their house in order, must give themselves governments and political institutions that are more responsive to the needs of their population.”(117) and he goes on to say “our hands are tied.” I take it he doesn’t mean that our hands are tied but if he does, what does he mean?

How does he suggest we deal with these national causal factors that are being promoted from within? At the end of the chapter he says that his argument shows that even these national causal factors, not withstanding, we still have share responbility. But how has he shown this?
Mike asks some good questions, and I have a couple more. On the issue of manifesto rights, though, I thought he was chastising the term manifesto (and the categorization of social/economic rights there) rather than endorsing it. He seems to be critiquing other authors who try to dismiss those rights as such.

When reading about his conception of rights, I wrote that "his conception of rights makes demands I like." Like most notes I make, I'm not entirely sure what I meant here, but I think I was primary happy about three moves he made. First, the concept of offical disespect is important. Coercive institutions can't display an official disrespect (which may take different forms). Three is something significant about the role of institutions/systems which goes beyond isolated incidents of injustice and, given that, special attention needs to be paid to these abusive. Second, his conception requires that citizens not be indifferent. This is an approach I've seen authors in many of my classes take and I think its incredibly important. Its so easy to criticize "the state" or "the man" and immediately point a finger somewhere. It would be horrible to assume that there aren't others doing things that have much worse ramifications for the lives of the poor than the everyday citizen. However, there are also others who are doing a whole lot more to prevent/stop that injustice. Not merely as citizens, but as people, we should recognize when a fundamental afront to justice is occurring and act to rectify the harm. Finally, I think its an interesting move to answer the libertarians by claiming that his conception is strictly negative--we have a duty not to support coercive systems that fail to protect rights. This meshes well with his claim that there can be additional moral components on top of the baseline moral requirements.

To be honest, I struggled a bit with the third and fourth chapters and would like to go over them. I understand the point of chapter three--that we shouldn't allow loopholes that undermine the basis of our moral system, and that sometimes we arrange society in a way that does, in fact, undermine our moral convictions--but I'm not sure I understand the examples he gives.

The fourth chapter is good. It really focuses on the extent to which we are being hypocritical by asserting that there are basic moral requirements required in a national order but not in the global order. I don't know enough Rawls/(Daniels) to see how they would respond here, but it could be an interesting discussion I think. Is Rawls really contradicting himself, or is he merely not spending enough energy here given how large his project alread is? Or is Pogge ignoring potential points of refutation? I'd also like to go over the distinctions between contextualism/non-contextualism/universalism some.

Finally, I am compelled by his argument that the "bad leaders" argument isn't sufficient. I found the objection originally to be quite good, given that it isn't just that "it's their fault." Rather, he treats the argument well by extending it to a question of inevitability--if there are bad leaders in power, won't they just continue to steal? Insofar as we support those leaders by continuing an economic system where corporations go in and deal with dictators, we are culpable. I also never thought about the fact that we don't allow debt relief for decisions that dictators made when others came in to power. These issues really complicate the social justice questions and seem to require unique/novel answers.


I first wanted to comment on Mike's post-I like the numbers too. It is very easy to follow! :)

At the beggining of chapter 2, Pogge writes: "Many are therefore inclined to believe that our human rights are whatever governments agree them to be."
This was very interesting because I feel like the average person in America might have the same notion of his or her rights. Of course, I have not done enough research, but when I look back to a few months ago my perception was the same. Before taking this class, if one asked me what rights I had, I would have automaticlly thought of the Constiution and rights contained inside.
Pogge then goes to explain how we came to believe we have certain moral or human rights. I really liked his explanation of "official disrespect". "Such wrongs do not merely deprive their victims of the objects of their rights, but attack those very rights themselves; they do not merely subvert what is right, but the very idea of right and justice" (59). By addressing the issue from this perspective, human rights violations are concernes of everyone. On page 63, Pogge discusses the socioeconomic factors that might aid in the violation of human rights. He writes that servants are often illiterate and ignorant to their legal rights, thus they are unable to change their situations. In order to relieve some of the problem, we should expand literacy, knowledge of existing legal rights, shelters for dismissed servants, unemolyment benefits for the poor, etc.
Although this truly sounds ideal, it does not seem plausible. Societies where this kind of servitude takes place do not seem like the ones that would give a damn about unemployment benefits and such. Servitude is most likely present in agrarian and growing economies, in placed that are in dire need of labor. The servants are aware of their poor conditions, but do not want to place themselves in worse ones by rebelling and demanding respect. Now, I wish I could miraculously propose a better way of solving this problem, but I cannot. Pogge's proposition is a good one; literacy and social improvements are always positive, but I don't think it can so easily solve the servants' problems.

Socioeconomic rights are currently and by far the most frequently unfullfiled human rights (91). Pogge claims that because of these peoples' economic powerlessness (sp), they are less likely to cause their leaders any trouble. This leaves the door wide open for further downgrade of their living conditions. How does capitalism play a role in this "mess"? I have been thinking about that throughout this book, and I can't seem to make up my mind. Even in communist societies, for example, powerty was still a large issue. Constantly there were shortages of goods, and people were lacking some common items for every day life.

I read page 97 several times. I got the chills each time, and I feel sick to my stomach. How can we be so oblivious? How can I complain?
It is depressing to see how little media coverage there is of this kind of suffering. Sure, there are books and movies about the Holocaust, Mao's Great Leap Forward and the Rawanda killings. Where are the portrayals of every day lives of people. The stories told are done so in a way that makes suffering seem like a thing of the past. The world needs to know take account of people's starvation, malnutrition, and sickness as a part of their regular lives.


Sunday, April 26, 2009


There is one copy in the library and it has already been checked out. I was wondering if someone possibly had an extra Pogge book, I kind of doubt that anyone is in to buying two of the same book for a class. So I am also wondering if anyone knew a website to find it at. I will only need to borrow the book for a couple days if anyone has one, while mine arrives from

Pogge's conceptions of human rights

Pogge really likes to use numbered lists. It seems like there are “four reasons” for everything and that each of those reasons is subdivided into its own finite list of reasons. I really like this writing style; it makes it much easier for me to stop and check my understanding.

With that said, I have a number of questions about these chapters, so I’ll jump right in.

1. Why are manifesto rights necessarily inferior rights? Pogge says that these “rhgts are somehow unrealistic or unclear about the duties they entail,” but it seems to me that many of these human rights that we are discussing in this book are will be extremely difficult to fully realize; if this is true, then some may label proponents of those rights “unrealistic” (73). As such, I’m wondering why such “unrealistic” rights are seemingly discounted. Is it just practicality, or am I missing something deeper?
2. I do like Pogge’s distinction between an interactional and institutional understanding of human rights (71). Although I’m wondering how much radical change is necessary to fully realize a system of institutional human rights. I like Pogge’s use of this concept because I’m inclined to believe that institutions are closer to the root cause of these problems; thus, it makes sense to target institutions as the way to fix the problem. I also think such a conception of human rights decentralizes responsibility to the public rather than centralizing that responsibility on government elites. However, I’m wondering if there is a tradeoff between these two conceptions of human rights? What is lost/gained with each conception of human rights?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Thursday, April 23, 2009


After our class discussion today, I felt this post needed writing (unfortunately, we ran out of time before I could address the following question/issue). Pogge, most notably in his conclusion of Chapter 1, asserts that his sense of justice and flourishment is based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or at least highly correlated to a degree of being quasi-synanymous.. However, I find this aspect problematic. If we look at the actual Universal Declaration of Human Rights document, it has been approved by the U.N. General Assembly. In fact, the U.N. website had this to say about the document, "Following this historic act, the Assembly called upon all Member countries to publicize the text of the Declaration and 'to cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions, without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories.' " ( Based on this information, Pogge's point seems redundant though not irrelevant. In being adopted by the U.N. member states in 1948, I think one could reasonably argue the Declaration already does constitute an internationally recognized criteria of justice, the same thing for which Pogge's first chapter aims. Now, I would agree if Pogge is trying to say the Declaration and its ideas be adopted because they are not. My question is what proposition is he making that hasn't been achieved in terms of universal criterion for justice?

Also, on a side note, I'm disappointed nobody commented on my Dagger blog from a few classes back. Professor McCrickerd, I would welcome you to open season on that post if you are still interested!

Beginnings of Poggy

I agree with what Poggy is trying to convey at the beginning; that peoples judgments that world poverty doesn’t seem like it’s that big of a deal. It’s all the way over there, I see no need to mess with it mentality. One way of lightening the problem would be do lessen the burdens that we(I’m not sure who we is, possibly the west) have put on smaller poverty ridden countries.
One thing that I am curious to look in to is. The fact that there is poverty in the United States. If we are looking at would poverty, would starting with the united states, be beneficial or more harmful to help lessen world poverty?


I agree with the earlier post concerning utilitarianism regarding the size of the group we are discussing. I believe any argument regarding groups becomes more difficult when the group gets larger (unless the problem is something like trying to eat 50 pizzas in 10 minutes and 15 people are participating-then it's better to have a larger group than 15). In examining the Pogge's argument thus far, it seems his aim is at measuring human flourishing in an attempt to gauge justice. His proposition to make a universal definition of justice is a noble notion but one which would be difficult to attain and maintain, if not impossible (in fact, more likely the latter). As much as I would like to see all people to agree with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the realist in me says it cannot be done. In order for such global uniformity to occur, there would need to be a catastrophic event or the rise of one world government with no state interest as a motive. I like the theory he is working on-it just can't be done, unless he has a convincing argument later to persuade me otherwise.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Pogge says that “human persons are flourishing means that their lives are good, or worthwhile, in the broadest sense.”(33) What exactly is he saying concerning human flourishing? Is he building his theory off of this, by later tying universal justice to it? Or is human flourishing before justice, does justice allow one to flourish? He goes on to say what a component and means to flourishing are but he also goes on to say we must know what human flourishing consists in. Also, he makes the distinction about how one perceives human flourishing, from within or from without. At the beginning of 1.1 he basically says that, human flourishing is central to our personal, ethical, and political aspects of our lives and those lives around us. So, first, one needs to be able to flourish and then autonomy and justice fall in accord? Would he say flourishing is a capacity?

He gives four desiderata (something wanted or needed) criteria sought after for universal justice, to make the basic criteria more plausible internationally, so all countries will be on the same page, with respect to justice. I think that this is an extremely good point, and perhaps a major dividing point between countries. If all societies had the same criteria for justice, or any major moral issue for that matter, it would seem like it would be more effective with regard to action.

In 1.5 he talks about human rights and legal rights. Is one of his main worries or fears about tying human rights to legal rights, is that if they were tied together, then people of those countries would file legal claims against whoever is at fault? It seems like he is saying that human rights come first with no legal power, is that to say that human rights are more powerful then legal rights, which I think they should be, but could not be taken to court as a claim? And he goes on to say that legal rights come secondary depending upon the national constitution of the individual country. So who, if anyone, is he placing the responsibility upon when it comes to claims for human rights? I realize he thinks it is the social institutions, but what does he mean by that? Is there a specific line he is drawing, or would it be weighted according to GDP? And when he speaks of social institutions, is he talking about solely governments or more broadly?

A lot of questions, I hope we can go over most of these tomorrow to clarify some things.

Utilitarianism (If that's even how you spell it)

But doesn't it always seem like we're coming back to utilitarianism? We talk about universal criteria and such, and I hate to be the Hobbes in the room, but there will always be people that don't want to look out for anyone but themselves. When they take the #3 into their hands, about making the criteria more strict for special occasions, who's to say it won't stay that way? Who are we leaving out?

It's been proven time and time again that the larger an organization is, the less likely it will work.
I would agree with Mike that I'd like to go over both "sixes" in class.

I think Pogge is right that the way we go about stopping injustice does seem to carry some sort of moral weight. Is it a proper reading of Rawls/(Daniels) to say that his hypothetical contractors would not be able to take account of the "method" question? Also, can someone please explain to me the argument about why we owe something to those in the past?

I did find very compelling the arguments about future citizens of the planet. He frames it a new way. It no longer was merely that we are using/damaging the resources of those in the future, though this is an extremely important point. He argued that we actually shape the conceptions of the good that future people will have in virtue of the decisions we make. How we leave the world, the values we uphold, will change others lives. If we promote particular professions as important in this lifetime, for instance, it will become second nature to future generations that those lifestyles are the way to be. This is cool and frightening all wrapped up into one.

It is interesting the way Pogge puts into conversation a real world issue and a sophisticated discussion of rights. As I understand his conceptions, its more about having claims against coercive social institutions to promote some ends. Interestingly, he doesn't view legality as a necessary condition and instead argues that it might be harmful, echoing sentiments of past authors we've read. One question, though. Isn't there something about legality that gives a feel of permanence to rights? A guarantee that something will be there the next day? Now, I know that laws change and that cultural norms, for instance, can tend to last much longer. But isn't there some value to codification. Also, what constitutes a "coercive social institution?" Who all would this conception of rights give obligations to? Her argument seems very similar to Shrader-Frechette's from EJ when arguing that those who reap benefits from an unjust social order are obligated to work to "compensate" others when systems of injustice can't be easily fixed.

Kids and rights

Apparently Dager is not standard reading in elementary school. These were at the Valley West Hy-Vee, apparently elementary schools kids were asked to write about what freedom meant to them.

The first one says "Freedom to me is having a government that the people are in charge and that is called a democracy. We the people have a thing called rights, and those rights came from the government and we fight in wars to regain(?) our freedoms"

The second one says "It means I can do what I want, when I want, however I want". I thought these were a good example of how rights are perceived in everyday life. The kid who wrote the second one basically gives the simplest explanation of how rights work in the US. This is especially interesting because you can tell by the writing that the child is very young. This isn't something they came up with all on their own after contemplating the nature of rights and responsibilities. The more likely (and depressing) explanation is that this what they were taught by their parents or in school. This kid's hyper-individualized notion of rights is being rewarded by having it displayed in public.

Pogge Intro and 1

Before I began reading Pogge, I was wondering what kind of a transition I would need to make in my mind from talking about Dagger’s notion of republican liberalism to discussing world poverty and human rights. At some level, I knew that we would be discussing two very different conceptions of rights. After all, Dagger is obsessed with the idea of close-knit communities and Pogge is operating on a global scale. With that in mind, I began reading.
I found myself wondering if Pogge, in the introduction, is implicitly responding to a claim that Dagger would make. I seem to recall Dagger making the claim that we owe a special duty to our compatriots simply because they are members of our community. That, to me, seems to be the same claim that Pogge labels the “second skillful defense of our acquiescence in world poverty” starting on page 14. In other words, I’m wondering if Dagger would make the claim that “people may give priority to their compatriots, especially in the context of a system of competing states; it is permissible for us and our political representatives vigorously to pursue our interests within an adversarial system in which others and their representatives can vigorously pursue their interests” (14). It seems to me that this claim shares many ideas with Dagger (treating compatriots with priority, the idea of people organizing in small groups), but I (and I don’t have any text to back me up) don’t think that Dagger would go so far to approve acquiescence in world poverty, but I’m not sure why.
Also, I’m hoping we can spend some time in class on Thursday unpacking Pogge’s conception of harm including his six points that he claims make his conception of harm more restrictive (pg. 26) as well as his sixfold discussion of how institutions relate to human flourishing (pg. 47-48). I have a feeling that these points are important to understanding the larger point that he makes about harm (and his use of the term in general) as well as his institutional conception of human rights, so I think it may well be worth our time.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Conclusions of Civic Virtues - Richard Dagger

Overall, I do appreciate Dagger’s argument in this book. However, I was confused by a couple of things in Chapter 11. As to the first challenge presented to republican liberalism that he discusses, that republican liberalism is hostile to cultural pluralism because it imposes homogeneity by ignoring differences among groups of people, I did not feel, from my understanding of the text, that Dagger addresses this point adequately. His response to this objection is to criticize this view by arguing that republican liberalism is superior to Young’s “politics of difference”. I did not see how criticizing “politics of difference” shows that republican liberalism is not hostile to cultural pluralism. Although, he does state that “The weakness of her theory does not guarantee the strength of mine in this regard” (180). So further, he aims to show that republican liberalism is more hospitable to difference than Young’s criticism suggests. In addressing this, he depends upon his previous discussion of autonomy and fair play. I understand his argument about how autonomy is something that can be developed only with the help and cooperation of others. How does this exactly contribute to difference, though? Does the cooperation of others not lead, in a sense, to homogeneity? Not homogeneity in the sense that we all become the same but in the sense that we all need to compromise toward certain similar or shared goals. I can see how this relates to respecting group differences, as he discusses in his recalling of the fair play argument on page 181, but does respecting group differences necessarily equate to recognizing all of the differences?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Republican Liberalism

I have to agree Dragger concept of Republican Liberalism. On page 179, he quote, “Republican Liberalism encourages people to search for a common ground by acting as citizens; the politics of difference tells them to ‘stand in different social locations,’ which leads directly to “stalled decisionmaking.” Even though, this might be a theory and people can argue that this cannot work or cannot exist, this theory of Republican Liberalism seems to be better than what we currently have, which is, the idea of a single republican is or libertarian. Both of these two, lacks the other characteristics of what it means to be a citizen. Republican Liberalism is a theory, if not, the ideal identity of a citizen. A common ground or goal within individuals or community seems to be better than the idea of an individual, only caring about him/herself or a person, who more value in others than him/herself.


How does he suggest we attain a successful balancing act between individuals and groups? On page 181 he writes, “If respecting group differences helps to instill a sense of fair play and cooperation in people, then republican liberals will gladly respect the difference.” When does respecting a group’s interest require one to set their interest aside for the betterment of society?

Also, is this theory put forth as an ideal (Ideal meaning end all say all, but embracing the fact that no theory will have an answer to all of life’s problems) political theory? Is every theory put forth as ideal? I realize he says throughout the book that this theory will not have an answer to all the problems, but so much of it relies on how people are, when in reality people aren’t like this. And again I realize he sees this problem, but it just seems like he put forth a theory, tied a lot of things nicely together, put some suggestions on how to instill certain aspects of this theory; but how does he suggest that this theory be brought forth? Because it seems like we can work on parts of this theory, such as community, but by cultivating one part isn’t going to set the rest of the theory into practice. I like the theory very much, but I haven’t read too many political theories, so maybe that is it. It seems like it takes into account a lot of fundamental principles and concepts of a good society, but is that all it is, is a theory with a few suggestions throughout the book saying this may work, but im not even sure if it will work? Because if it is that, then it just seems like a nice little book, with an “idea” of how society should be.

just pulling everything together

I know this wont make sense to most that read this because i am addressing an article from paths to knowledge but I have to say it...I think this book is proof that philosophy can be seductive because I feel pretty seduced by this book now that we are done.
Having said that I can get into what I thought of these last few chapters. When basically pulling his argument together to give a big picture look at what he had been doing and fill in a few spots that had not been perfectly clear Dagger's concept of how autonomy and civic virtue work really sank home. The notion that to respect right is not merely to assert them but to have a desire to protect other people's rights and treat other people in a way where you are not using them or being used by them in a way that changes the balance away from the equality of all persons really allowed for a clearer understanding for my of what it is that civic virtue is doing when he had been explaining that a community with civic virtue helps foster autonomy. It was also helpful to clarify that autonomy is not something we are trying to maximize or even the only right that matters in his system. Instead his system tries to raise everyone to a certain threshold of autonomy and that we address autonomy because it is the building block of other equally valuable things in society.
I have a few questions and not a lot of answers based on this reading. I would like to address Mike's post first, though. I think the "what has gone wrong" question is Sure, you are right that this book is based on some of the same basic premises that our government was founded on. Glendon was a description of how we've strayed. This is an explanation of how we can go back.

I have two questions based on the reading that I'm genuinely confused about. First, is it just me or does Dagger seem sort of flippant towards the diversity problem? He is thorough in his response to Young, though I don't think he was very generous (from my limited familiarity with her work). Can anybody more familiar with her work respond? I know her work is sort of extreme in terms of "solutions," but it seems like the discussion could go deeper.

Moreover,it seems like he is setting up a straw man by spending so much time on her argument. I don't see him attending to any of the interesting questions involved in pluralism from my perspective (things I've brought up in other posts). All he says is that pluralism shares some values with republican liberalism. How does it deal with the more interesting questions of diversity? Admittedly, this could be an issue of him using more abstract language and not really delving into particular examples. I'd just like to go over his arguments tomorrow.

Second, can someone explain to me the importance of the second question? I guess I don't see the question (particularly involving Rawls) as contentious. Where Dagger's argument is more belabored, I find it more intuitive. I guess I'd like to go over this more too.

Dagger and Fed 10

I liked the ending to Dagger’s book, but, as I was reading the last few pages and thinking about our discussions in class over the last week or so, I’m wondering what the big take-away point is for Dagger. On the one hand, we know from the first chapter that his formal thesis is simply to recognize that republican liberalism is feasible, and it seems like he has done that. However, his book has a very “practical” bent to it; he seems intent on offering practical solutions that can improve the quality of life in America. So, I’m wondering what Dagger would say that we can take away from the book.
It seems to me that what Dagger has been overwhelmingly concerned with throughout the book has been battling nonparticipation. Through his discussions of education, instant direct democracy, and even local neighborhood organizations in the last chapter, Dagger has consistently argued that individuals need to be more involved in the community. This increased participation, he seems to argue, would lead to a greater sense of community, which, in turn, would lead to a stronger system of government.
Assuming the above to be at least partially correct, I’m left wondering by his last two main points. First, Dagger says that individuals should be empowered to join groups. Second, he says that the power of the groups must be managed so no group becomes overly powerful. With this in mind, I’m left thinking about Madison’s Federalist #10 which deals with exactly those same issues. Madison’s conclusion is that the only way to manage the power of faction is to create a society in which groups can prosper and control each other’s power. That idea is, allegedly, incorporated into our political system.
So, I’m left with a bit of a paradox. We live in a system of government founded on the idea that groups should be empowered and, 200 years later, we’re reading a book that says that groups should be empowered. What happened? It doesn’t seem that the main idea has changed, but it seems that our government has not lived up to that ideal. What are we doing wrong?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The end of Dagger

I really enjoyed the last chapter of Civic Virtues. In chapter 12, Dagger concludes his arguements about republican liberalism, and civic virtues. "Republican liberalism seeks to promote and cultivate, but not to maxime, certain virtues." He goes on to say that it is important to bring as many individuals to the same treshold, not maximize vritues in a group of few.
I found it very interesting to see his blending of virtues, and their different sources in society. Dagger incorporates different ideals, from classical to Christian virtues, and ends with a list of six vitues that republican liberalism should promote. He states that a republican liberal is one who : respects individual rights, values autonomy, tolerates different opinions and beliefs, plays fair, cherishes civic memory, and takes an active part in the life of the community.
Although these are important ideals, it is perhaps more important and interesting to see how they relate and work together. For example, Dagger explains that one of the reasons to tolerate those with whom one disagrees is because one hopes that they will do the same. This is directly tied to playing fair and reciprocity. Because these virtues are easily exercied together, it more appealing to strive and achieve this behavior.
Dagger further explains the importance of civil society. It is needed to serve as an intermediary between the public and private lives of citizens, and to help them incorporate one and the other. Dagger explains the importance of a civil society from a republican and liberal standpoint. On one hand, it is important to appreciate the rights and interests of others and their autonomy. On the other hand, a civil society must promote civic responsiblity and common good.

I would like to say (to Prof. McCrickerd), that I really like the order of books we have had. Especially because Dagger concluded his book by addressing the proliferation of "rights-talk".

"To appreciate rights is to understand that they are as valuable for the way they connect us to as for the way they protect us from one another."

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Instant Direct Democracy

It is all well and good to say that voter apathy will go away if we just put some kind of a voting/polling station within every American's homes; what if voter apathy is a bigger deal than just people not being able to get to a polling station within a given time. I mean Drake has vote of what not over the Internet and I've only voted in one election and there has to have been like 25 times that I could have voted for different stuff this year.

If instant Direct Democracy were to be implamented I feel that JMc's -grauge door openner, cell phone, ipod theory. Would become more true. In Iowa we have caucuses, instant direct democracy no need for that any more.

The Tyranny of Traffic Laws

I understand that it would be better for all if all of us were to have some sort of agreed upon rules for driving, but I think that these are the sorts of things that should be voluntary, not mandatory. That is, we shouldn’t be fined or otherwise penalized for not doing what’s in the best interest of all. Society forcing me to drive in a particular way (e.g., on a particular side of the road, at a particular speed, stopping and going in particular places and on particular signals, etc.) just so everyone benefits is a violation of my right to autonomy, to make my own choices. Of course, if I ever hurt anyone I should be penalized, but any laws that mandate that I behave in any way beyond not directly harming foists upon me demands that cannot be legitimately foisted upon me by the larger majority. Anyone can choose to do what they want but no one should be coerced to do anything beyond not directly harm.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


I would have to agree with Dagger’s idea about compulsory voting and self-resignation. If it is a citizen’s duty, according to Dagger, to vote to become politically involve in their community and remain us of rights about voting, then I think it would be necessary to, not necessarily force, but discipline people to vote. In my point of view, I think our government leaves us with a lot of options to choose between what we, each individually, want. Once we find what we want, we usually stay and only stay on that realm of our personal needs, disregarding anything else that would makes us doubt or change our personal needs and beliefs. Therefore, by leaving to the choice to vote or not, or giving us the sole responsibility to vote, gives us the decision if voting is even part of our personal interests. And from what I got from Dagger, I get the feeling that the people don’t care voting because it is not part of their lives or interests. Therefore, people don’t vote and don’t perform their duties to the community, in which they benefit from. Thus, I understand, and Dagger would say, that they are “free riders.”
Overall, I would have to disagree with Dagger’s method in making people voting through legal meanings. Punishing or fining people for not voting seems repressive and it leaves room of people to resist. I would argue that discipline people to voting or be actively involved in the political system of the community is better than that to force people to vote or punishing them for no doing so.

Dagger 9 & 10

Instant direct democracy would separate citizens more; it would seem to fit more on the liberal side of the argument. And ultimately Dagger does say that it would not be compatible with Republican-liberalism. Compulsory voting also seems to lose the sense of obligation or duty republican-liberalism is trying to impose amongst citizens. The two options I think would be most appealing would either be automatic voter registration or compulsory voter registration. Automatic voter registration might be handy and get people to the polls especially if people tend to move around a lot, make the automatic registration a nationwide registration and not just a state registration somehow. I like compulsory voter registration, because it would be much like registering for selective service. It gets young adults to go out and do something that is a duty to do, but then they choose if they want to vote or not. I think it would be a very good idea to coincide the two registrations with one another, selective service and voter registration.

The sketch of his “ideal” city seems a bit on the fantasy side. I would agree however, about the better cities citizen wise is between 10,000-250,000 range, I think this may be a bit broad though. I grew up in a town of about 25,000 and knew quite a few people; it had that sense of a community. Almost anywhere I went I knew someone I knew. I then moved to a town of about 150,000 and lived there for about a year and a half, there I did not know as many people, but being that I did not grow up there could be one reason why. Another might be that i pretty much only went to school, work and church. But even at that I only got to know the people I would see at those places and very rarely would see those people around town. Thus far, living in Des Moines, it has that bigger city feeling to it. It definitely feels bigger than the previous cities, just from the aspect of knowing people. The smaller the city from my experience, there is a better sense of a community.

Perhaps I missed it, but does he talk about how to stop people from moving around? Because one of his points is civic memory and this would be absent if one has no memory or no sense of belonging within a city.

goodbye apathy

I found chapter nine interesting because of the concept of apathy or indifference in regards to political participation. Dagger list some reasons why apathy should not be 'fixed'. For example "(apathy) may simply indicate that the members of the electorate are content with the situation in which they find their polity and themselves" (pg 133). This in particular resonated with me considering the record turnout this last election and all the problems that fueled this past election. The second argument basically states that as long as enough people vote then every thing works out, except for defining what "enough" is. The last argument I find most convincing, that being, that "relatively high levels of indifference among an electorate are desirable and perhaps even necessary to ensure the health of a democracy" (pg 134).

Being that apathy IS a problem for Dagger, he considers ways to combat apathy. One example he gives is Instant Direct Democracy. Instant Direct Democracy in a nut shell (from my understanding) is basically where each citizen votes on pretty much everything from the comfort of their home. At first glance this seems like a nice idea. In this concept of government there is less under/over representation as well as less influence by interest groups. However, there are some disadvantages as well. Disadvantages like the fact that most people are in one way or another incorrectly informed about political issues. This model runs the threat of requiring too much of the average joe, at least in a political sense some would argue.

Dismissing Instand Direct Democracy Dagger shifts focus on another possible means of combatting apathy. He suggest making voting mandatory, making voting registration automatic, or making voting registration a requirement. Ultimately, I find that the last option is the best, or the best of the three at least. Here we create political awareness to a small degree and still preserve the ability to vote or not to vote.

Ultimately, I'm struggeling to place apathy in the category of disease (my words, not Daggers). Perhaps that is the liberal side of me overpowering the republican side. Just like the third appeal to apathy, I feel that apathy is a part of democracy. Democracy is a government forged by the people and their expressing their opinion. Why does apathy get such a bad rap? As Sarte said "If you don't choose, you have chosen not to choose." I'm trying to understand perhaps that Dagger does not say apathy is bad, only that it is not a productive element of republican liberalism. Thoughts anyone...or perhaps not?

Dagger on Political Participation

The chapter on political participation was very disappointing to me. Dagger is a political scientist, and the problems that he discusses in the chapter are those that others in his discipline have studied without ceasing for decades. In particular, there are a wide variety of studies on the causes of political participation from which Dagger could have drawn to support and to vet his argument. In particular, his critique of voter efficacy (the idea that people are reluctant to vote because the doubt that their vote matters) simply pushed the issue aside when it has been a major area of contention in the field for a while.
Even more frustrating was his continual conflation of topics. Two were particularly frustrating to me. First, he asserted that direct democracy would (in theory) be good because it would treat every voter equally (I know he eventually rejects the entire direct democracy argument, but I find it frustrating that he is appealing to an incorrect characterization of the American political system to make his argument). Our system of government was specifically founded upon the idea that not every voter is to be treated equally. Our government is founded upon a dual system of equality: one house of Congress treats citizens as equals and the other house treats states as equals. The point of the American political system was never to treat every citizen as an equal (indeed, that is part of the reason why senators were not initially popularly elected). Dagger’s idea of direct democracy, then, would do more than change the mechanism of voting; it would change the fundamental fabric of our political system. Second, he completely underestimates the complexity of the legislative process. He provides a vague description of an “Agenda committee” that would, theoretically, choose which proposals are available to the public. It is hard to imagine how individuals would acquire the necessary expertise to properly draft legislation to govern one of the strongest countries in the world without education and training; if Dagger’s solution is to rely on some type of congressional staffers (which is what we do now), then he is removing power from the popularly elected individuals on the Agenda committee and placing power in the hands of these unelected staffers because the Agenda committee (without knowledge of the intricate process of legislation) would more than likely defer to the expertise of the staffer.
Dagger’s preferred solutions to the participation dilemma are compulsory voting and compulsory registration. To support his argument in favor of compulsory voting, he cites statistics from other countries. However, I find it hard to believe that such statistics would be necessarily applicable in the United States; every country is composed of a delicate balance of factors (size, level of political involvement other than voting, number of elections, etc.) that determine a nation’s political culture, and it seems unlikely just because something will work in the United States simply because it was successful in another country under vastly different circumstances. Second, Dagger seems to completely overestimate the barriers to voter registration. While I’m not familiar with voter registration processes nationwide, I know that the nationwide trend is toward the acceptance of same-day voter registration. It seems that, in a few years, voter registration will become obsolete as a separate process; individuals who had not previously registered will simply fill out a short form when the go to the polls. Also, this trend is seemingly being publicized. Think back to the publicity surrounding the Iowa caucuses (which, because of their closed-party status, are more “elite” institutions than general elections). The candidates from both parties went to great lengths to inform the public about same-day registration. As such, I find Dagger’s claim that compulsory registration would increase voter turnout to be largely unconvincing.