Saturday, July 25, 2009

Thom Brooks on "Punishing States That Cause Global Poverty"

Thom Brooks, "Punishing States That Cause Global Poverty," William Mitchell Law Review 33(2) (2007): 519-32.


Since the end of the Cold War, “ordinary deaths from starvation and preventable diseases” amount to approximately 250 million people, most of them children. Global poverty refuses to
decline, as global inequality continues to increase, more than doubling since 1960. Thomas Pogge argues that wealthy states have a responsibility to help those in severe poverty. This
responsibility arises from the foreseeable and avoidable harm the current global institutional order perpetrates on poor states. Pogge demands that wealthy states eradicate global poverty, not merely because they have the resources, but because they share responsibility for its continuation. Thus, for Pogge, global poverty is more than a wrong imposed on the poor: it is a violation of human rights and a crime.

In this paper, I aim to demonstrate that Pogge’s conclusions do not follow from his argument. More specifically, if affluent states have a negative duty to assist those in severe poverty, their
duty is not absolute because they are not fully responsible for this poverty. Moreover, if global poverty is one of the greatest crimes against humanity, then it seems inappropriate at best to support proposals, pace Pogge, which leave the guilty parties walking free. We should punish states that cause global poverty.

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