Ethics & International Affairs Volume 28.2 (Summer 2014): "Fairness in Practice: A Social Contract for a Global Economy" by Aaron James

Jun 13, 2014

Fairness in Practice: A Social Contract for a Global Economy, Aaron James (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 380 pp., $74 cloth.

Review by Simon Cotton

We are all familiar with the claim that the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO) are unjust or otherwise objectionable. Yet this claim faces substantial hurdles in motivating corrective action. Most significantly, wealthy states face political pressures against moderating their bargaining positions. But this is not the only problem. First, there remains the suspicion that these rules are not, in fact, objectionable, or that they are only mildly so—perhaps "bad" but not "unjust." After all, no country is forced to be subject to them; the WTO is a voluntary institution. Second, we still have to determine what rules would be just. Is it really the job of the WTO to compensate for inherent inequalities between countries? In this book, the first philosophical work devoted exclusively to "fair trade," Aaron James seeks to combat the second of these challenges directly. In doing so, he also combats the first.

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