Open Perfectionism and Global Justice

Theoria 51 (104):96-127 (2004)
Abstract
In his book Cosmopolitan Justice, Darrel Moellendorf argues that respect for persons has the following rough implications (among others): requires states to enact liberal legislation; permits them to interfere with religious or otherwise perfectionist regimes; forbids them from restricting immigration for perfectionist ends; and requires them to permit secession. In this article, I do not question Moellendorf's Kantian foundation; what I do here is question the inferences from this principle to the above conclusions. My basic strategy involves drawing a distinction between open and closed societies, and arguing that, although some of Moellendorf's arguments might be sound for closed societies, they are not clearly so for open ones. An open society is one from which it is relatively easy to leave, and a closed society is one from which it is comparatively difficult to do so. Although I doubt that any substantially open societies presently exist, they are real possibilities, and in such societies respect for persons would not have the implications that Moellendorf claims.
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