Thinking about the needy, justice, and international organizations

Journal of Ethics 8 (4):349 - 395 (2004)
This article has three main parts, Section 2 considers the nature and extent to which individuals who are well-off have a moral obligation to aid the worlds needy. Drawing on a pluralistic approach to morality, which includes consequentialist, virtue-based, and deontological elements, it is contended that most who are well-off should do much more than they do to aid the needy, and that they are open to serious moral criticism if they simply ignore the needy. Part one also focuses on the United States, and illustrates both how incredibly wealthy the U.S. is and some of the spending habits of its citizens; however, its considerations apply to the well-off generally. Section 3 considers whether justice provides reasons for helping the needy. Noting that justice in an extremely complex notion, it discusses numerous considerations relevant to justices scope and implications, including an extended Rawlsian conception of justice, an absolute conception, a comparative conception, the distinction between natural and social justice, and various elements of common-sense morality. Section 2 also distinguishes between agent-relative justice-based reasons, which are relevant to whether we act justly, and agent-neutral justice-based reasons, which are relevant to whether we have reasons of justicefor acting. Correspondingly, it argues that even if one can ignore the needy without acting unjustly, as philosophers like Robert Nozick and Jan Narveson contend, there may be powerful reasons of justicefor addressing their plight. Section 4 briefly address the responsibilities of international organizations like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and World Trade Organization (WTO). Drawing on Section 2, it is suggested that in addition to standard reasons to act justlytowards needy members of the worlds community, there will be reasons of justicefor such organizations to aid the needy in both present, and future, generations. The article concludes by contending that the well-off in countries like the U.S. have reason to view international organizations like the World Bank, IMF, and WTO as their agents, and to seek to insure that they alleviate misfortunes amongst the worlds needy.
Keywords agent-neutral reasons  agent-relative reasons  comparative justice  consequentialism  conspicuous consumption  deontology  duties  foreign aid  future generations  injustice  International Monetary Fund  justice  Jan Narveson  natural justice  the needy  pluralism  poverty  proportional justice  John Rawls  social justice  virtue  wealth  World Bank  World Trade Organization
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Bharat Ranganathan (2012). On Helping One's Neighbor. Journal of Religious Ethics 40 (4):653-677.

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