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

Metaphilosophy 39 (4-5):612-620 (2008)
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.
Keywords poverty  responsibility  causation  compensation  duties
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