Global deprivation—whose duties? Some problems with the contribution principle

Metaphilosophy 39 (4-5):612-620 (2008)
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Abstract

Abstract: In this brief article, I claim that the Contribution Principle invoked by Christian Barry as a key principle for determining who owes what to the global destitute is mistaken as a definitive principle and unjustified as a provisional principle for dealing with global poverty. This principle assumes that merely causing, or contributing to the cause of, a state of affairs may be sufficient to have a special responsibility to bear the costs that this state of affairs entails. I argue that an agent will only have such a special responsibility if he or she has caused a state of affairs (for example, acute destitution) by violating a duty not to do so. Therefore, the Contribution Principle is mistaken. Finally, I tackle two possible responses to my argument. The first claims that states have a duty not to undertake actions that may cause, or contribute to the cause of, acute deprivations. The second claims that although the Contribution Principle may be mistaken as a definitive principle for dealing with global destitution, it is nonetheless correct as a provisional principle.

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References found in this work

World Poverty and Human Rights.Thomas Pogge - 2002 - Ethics and International Affairs 19 (1):1-7.
Severe Poverty as a Violation of Negative Duties.Thomas Pogge - 2005 - Ethics and International Affairs 19 (1):55-83.
Applying the contribution principle.Christian Barry - 2005 - Metaphilosophy 36 (1-2):210-227.
Equality, Luck, and Responsibility.Arthur Ripstein - 1994 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 23 (1):3-23.

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