Are there any practical limits to achieving global justice?

Principles of distributive justice are normative principles designed to allocate goods in limited supply relative to demand.

But the world today is not based on principles of distributive justice…

Even do people in developing countries are today having economically a better life looking back on the last 40 years there is still over a billion people going hungry. This unequal development occurs while we are exploiting the earth’s natural resources at a furious pace. Often this is done at the expense of poor countries and people’s ability to prosper. Mining and large scale plantations destroy nature, while small farmers driven out and many indigenous peoples’ territories and rights. Farmers and small businesses are knocked out of competition with the West’s large scale and subsidized agriculture and industry (UNDP, 2010).

When thinking about global justice I have understood that my way of think about global justice dosent goes along with the reality.

I agree with the cosmopolitan concept of human equality, freedom of people, human rights but I don’t see I happening when it comes equal economically situation because that require transfer of resources from the haves to the have-nots as it is not practical. Therefore is my conclusion that there is a lot of practical limits to achieving global justice and they can’t be overcome.

The explanation to why I argue that there practical limits is based Thomas Pogge explaniation to the “Resource privilege & Borrowing privilege”. These privileges allow illegitimate political leaders to sell natural resources and to borrow money in the name of the country and its people. In Pogge’s analysis, these resource and borrowing privileges that international society extends to oppressive rulers of impoverished states play a crucial causal role in perpetuating absolute poverty.

Pogge also argues that these privileges are no accident; they persist because they are in the interest of the wealthy states. The resource privilege helps guarantee a reliable supply of raw materials for the goods enjoyed by the members of wealthy states, and the borrowing privilege allows the financial institutions of wealthy states to issue lucrative loans. It may seem that such loans are good for developing states too, but Pogge argues that, in practice, they typically work quite to the contrary. Local elites can afford to be oppressive and corrupt, because, with foreign loans and military aid, they can stay in power even without popular support (Pogge, 2002: 295 + 238).                                                                           

Leif Wenar goes even further in his rhetoric of practical limitations and he calls the “Resource privilege” the “Resource Curse”. Wenar describes that whoever can oppress or terrorize the people of a country enough does allegedly get the legal right to sell off the country’s resources. Contrary at the same time one main premise of the legal argument, is deeply embedded in international law. The premise is that the natural resources of each country belong to the people of that country. But for example in Equatorial Guinea, Sudan, Zimbabwe and Burma the political conditions are such that the people, who own the natural resources of the country, couldn’t possibly be consenting for anyone to sell those resources off.

Even do there are initiatives like “The Clean Hands Trust” that aims for that Western governments should prevent their corporations from buying resources from severely repressive regimes and civil warriors the questions still remains on how to stop other kinds of buyers from simply stepping in and buying up these resources anyway(for example China). Which will then of course get recycled and channeled back in the economy or the economies of any country that actually refuses to buy the oil or natural resources directly? Wenar´s explains that the hope is that the more we know about these problems, the more we’ll know about what contributions we can make to the solutions.

I know about the problem of global justice but I don’t belive it is possible to achive. But I belive that creating sustainable development is linked to the possibility of ensure fairness and reduce poverty so I hope it is possible to create global justice. There is a need for concrete steps to create both a global justice and sustainable world.

Therefore I together with 6407 people had signed the petition for “Global Justice Now” that is a Swedish joint campaign organized by solidarity organizations, environmental movement organizations  and folk high schools to bring the climate and the global justice issues on the agenda. The petition was submitted to the Swedish government on the 13th of January 2011 in order to make a statement for a sustainable and just world and included four concrete action: create a global tax on greenhouse gas emissions, sign trade agreements that promote sustainable development and human rights, establish an international tax on currency trading and use international aid assistance to fighting poverty (Global rättvisa nu, 2011). But one of the main pratical limitations to why the campaign “Global Justice Now” never will work is do to the time horizon considered because it affects the actors that can change the situations directly.


  • Björkman, Pontus (2010) Kampanjen Global Rättvisa Nu, access: 2010-01-24
  • Caney, Simon (2001) Review Article: International Distributive Justice, Political Studies 49: 974-997
  • Carens, Joseph H (1992) Migration and Morality, Free Movement, Harvester Wheatsheaf
  • Held, David (2000) Regulating Globalization? The Reinvention of Politics, International Sociology 15, no. 2: 394–408
  • Nagel, Thomas (2005) The Problem of Global Justice,  Philosophy & Public Affairs 33, no. 2: 113-147
  • Pogge, Thomas (2002) World Poverty and Human Rights, Cambridge: Polity Press
  • Rawls, John (1999) A Theory of Justice (revised edition), Harvards University press
  • Risse, Mathias (2005) Do We Owe the Global Poor Assistance or Rectification?, Ethics and International Affairs 19, no. 1: 9-18
  • United Nations Development Programme (2010) What Will It Take to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals?, USA
  • Wenar, Leif (2008) On the Resource Curse, Public Ethics Radio,, acces: 2010-01-23



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