Models of International Economic Justice [Abstract]

Ethics & International Affairs, Volume 18.2 (Fall 2004)

October 21, 2004

Articulating and examining the likely consequences of different theoretical and policy approaches to economic justice serves to highlight potential trade-offs and conflicts among them, and helps us to think more carefully about these trade-offs and what their consequences might be. Some of us, for example, might support a liberal free trade regime because we believe it promotes greater income equality among countries,. But we might also reasonably assert that such a regime exacerbates economic injustices within some countries by causing dislocation and unemployment, particularly among vulnerable socioeconomic groups such as unskilled workers. This essay presents three models that seek to capture some of the central normative concerns that have been expressed by critics of economic globalization—communitarian, liberal internationalist, and cosmopolitan prioritarian. I indicate the kinds of economic models and data sets that are relevant to determining whether and to what extent greater openness to global trade poses a threat to economic justice as conceived by each of these approaches. Specifically, I use these analytical tools in order to relate changes in openness to foreign trade to other social and economic outcomes, particularly changes in income inequality and poverty, which have tended to draw the attention of nearly all theorists of economic justice. I characterize and critique the approach to economic justice that has been (implicitly) adopted by the major international institutions like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and World Trade Organization. I conclude with some policy implications and suggestions for further research in the area of international economic justice.


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