T.W. Pogge: The Current Global Economic Order Manifests Radical Inequality

T.W. Pogge makes an argument for the conclusion that the wealthy citizens and governments are violating a negative duty of justice when they coercively exclude the poor from a share of proportional resource through collaboration with the ruling elites of poor countries. In doing so he outlines radical inequality as having the five following elements:

  1. The worse-off are very badly off in absolute terms.
  2. They are also very badly off in relative terms – very much worse off than many others.
  3. The inequality is impervious: it is difficult or impossible for the worse-off substantially to improve their lot; and most of the better-off never experience life at the bottom for even a few months and have no vivid idea of what it is like to live in that way.
  4. The inequality is pervasive: it concerns not merely some aspects of life, such as the climate or access to natural beauty or high culture, but most aspects or all.
  5. The inequality is avoidable: the better-off can improve the circumstances of the worse-off without becoming badly off themselves.

Under these conditions, the mere fact of their existence indicates that there is a violation of negative duty. A negative duty is taken to mean a duty not to uphold injustice practices such as profiting from the unjust impoverishment of others. For the second argument made by Pogge he adds the condition:

6. The better-off enjoy significant advantages in the use of a single natural resource base from whose benefits the worse-off are largely, and without compensation, excluded.

Pogge shows that this exact scenario is occurring around the world in poor countries. Not only are the affluently carelessly wasting away the resources of the world in an alarmingly disproportionate rate, but for billions of people who are being born into poverty, they have no feasible choice other than to rent themselves out to buy the natural resources needed. In addition to this, the employment and educational options are very limited. The education provided can often only be the skills needed to work in the local sweatshop.

The wealthy in one country exploit the poor in another country in the following way. In the poor countries, those who live there are forced into working in sweatshops as their only realistic means of obtaining the necessities of survival. A large company owned by the wealthy in a wealthy country will send orders over to the sweatshops in the poor countries which are also owned by the wealthy living there. The profits of these sweatshops, however, often do not go to those working in the sweatshop, rather it goes to the people who own it. In this way, the wealthy have interest in keeping the employment choices of the poor limited so that they may continue to profit off of them when they work in the sweatshops. This almost completely eliminates the ability of the poor to secure a proportional share of the world’s natural resources.

Pogge thus makes the argument by showing that all of the six conditions are fulfilled which implies that there is a violation of negative duty.

One objection to Pogge’s argument is that he does not specifically state anywhere why it is he believes that when the six conditions are fulfilled it shows there is a violation of a duty. This is an important part of Pogge’s argument and it is not specifically outlined in the article why the connection is made.

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