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Profile: David Wiens (University of California, San Diego)
  1. David Wiens, Against Ideal Guidance.
    [Working paper] Political philosophers frequently claim that political ideal can provide normative guidance for unjust and otherwise nonideal circumstances. This is mistaken. This paper demonstrates that political ideals contribute nothing to our understanding of the normative principles we should implement amidst unjust or otherwise nonideal circumstances.
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  2. David Wiens, Ideal Theory and the Theory of Second Best.
    [Working paper] Philosophers occasionally invoke Lipsey and Lancaster's "general theory of second best" to challenge the ideal guidance view, the view that ideal political principles can provide normative guidelines for our efforts to address injustice amidst unfavorable circumstances. Roughly, the theorem says: if certain conditions are met, then what we should do in nonideal circumstances does not necessarily approximate what we should do in ideal circumstances. But extant challenges to the ideal guidance view are based on mistaken interpretations of the (...)
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  3. David Wiens, The Theory of Second Best: An Expository Note.
    I address two issues pertaining to the interpretation of the consequent of Lipsey and Lancaster's (1956) "general theory of second best". This note is a companion to my "Ideal Theory and the Theory of Second Best", which discusses issues pertaining to the theorem's antecedent.
     
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  4. David Wiens (forthcoming). Political Ideals and the Feasibility Frontier. Economics and Philosophy.
    Recent methodological debates regarding the place of feasibility considerations in normative political theory are hindered for want of a rigorous model of the feasibility frontier. To address this shortfall, I present an analysis of feasibility that generalizes the economic concept of a production possibility frontier and then develop a rigorous model of the feasibility frontier using the familiar possible worlds technology. I then show that this model has significant methodological implications for political philosophy. On the Target View, a political ideal (...)
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  5. David Wiens (forthcoming). Achieving Global Justice: Why Failures Matter More Than Ideals. In Kate Brennan (ed.), Making Global Institutions Work: Power, Accountability and Change. Routledge.
    My aim in this paper is twofold. First, I challenge the view that ideal normative principles offer appropriate guidelines for our efforts to identify morally progressive institutional reform strategies. I shall call this view the "ideal guidance approach." Second, I develop an alternative methodological approach to specifying nonideal normative principles, which I call the "failure analysis approach." I contrast these alternatives using examples from the global justice literature.
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  6. David Wiens (forthcoming). 'Going Evaluative' to Save Justice From Feasibility -- A Pyrrhic Victory. Philosophical Quarterly.
    I discuss Gheaus's (2013) argument against the claim that the requirements of justice are not constrained by feasibility concerns. I show that the general strategy exemplified by this argument is not only dialectically puzzling, but also imposes a heavy cost on theories of justice -- puzzling because it simply sidesteps a presupposition of any plausible formulation of the so-called "feasibility requirement"; costly because it it deprives justice of its normative implications for action. I also show that Gheaus's attempt to recover (...)
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  7. David Wiens, Paul Poast & William Roberts Clark (forthcoming). The Political Resource Curse: An Empirical Re-Evaluation. Political Research Quarterly.
    Extant theoretical work on the political resource curse implies that dependence on resource revenues should decrease autocracies’ likelihood of democratizing but not necessarily affect democracies’ chances of survival. Yet most previous empirical studies estimate models that are ill-suited to address this claim. We improve upon earlier studies, estimating a dynamic logit model that interacts a continuous measure of resource dependence with an indicator of regime type using data from 166 countries, covering the period from 1816-2006. We find that an increase (...)
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  8. David Wiens (2014). Natural Resources and Institutional Development. Journal of Theoretical Politics 26 (2):197-221.
    Recent work on the resource curse argues that the effect of resource wealth on development outcomes is a conditional one: resource dependent countries with low quality institutions are vulnerable to a resource curse, while resource dependent countries with high quality institutions are not. But extant models neglect the ways in which the inflow of resource revenue impacts the institutional environment itself. In this paper, I present a formal model to show that where domestic institutions do not limit state leaders' discretion (...)
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  9. David Wiens (2013). Demands of Justice, Feasible Alternatives, and the Need for Causal Analysis. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 16 (2):325-338.
    Many political philosophers hold the Feasible Alternatives Principle (FAP): justice demands that we implement some reform of international institutions P only if P is feasible and P improves upon the status quo from the standpoint of justice. The FAP implies that any argument for a moral requirement to implement P must incorporate claims whose content pertains to the causal processes that explain the current state of affairs. Yet, philosophers routinely neglect the need to attend to actual causal processes. This undermines (...)
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  10. David Wiens (2013). Natural Resources and Government Responsiveness. Politics, Philosophy and Economics:1470594-13496755.
    Pogge (2008) and Wenar (2008) have recently argued that we are responsible for the persistence of the so-called ‘resource curse’. But their analyses are limited in important ways. I trace these limitations to their undue focus on the ways in which the international rules governing resource transactions undermine government accountability. To overcome the shortcomings of Pogge’s and Wenar’s analyses, I propose a normative framework organized around the social value of government responsiveness and discuss the implications of adopting this framework for (...)
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  11. David Wiens (2012). Prescribing Institutions Without Ideal Theory. Journal of Political Philosophy 20 (1):45-70.
    It is conventional wisdom among political philosophers that ideal principles of justice (i.e., principles that would regulate the constitutions of fully just institutional arrangements) must guide our attempts to design institutions to avert actual injustice. Call this the ideal guidance approach. I argue that this view is misguided—ideal principles of justice are not appropriate "guiding principles" that actual institutions must aim to realize, even if only approximately. Fortunately, the conventional wisdom is also avoidable. In this paper, I develop an alternative (...)
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  12. David Wiens (2011). Engineering Global Justice: Achieving Success Through Failure Analysis. Dissertation, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (UM)
    My dissertation develops a novel approach to institutional analysis and begins to apply this approach to debates in the international justice literature. The main innovation of this institutional failure analysis approach is to ground our normative evaluation of institutions on a detailed understanding of the causal processes that generate problematic social outcomes. Chapters 1 and 2 motivate the need for this new approach, showing that philosophers' neglect of causal explanations of global poverty leads extant normative analyses of poverty astray. The (...)
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