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Do We Owe the Global Poor Assistance or Rectification



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Do We Owe the Global Poor Assistance or Rectification Mathias Risse A central theme throughout Thomas Pogge s path breaking World Poverty and Human Rights is that the global political and economic order harms people in developing countries and that our duty toward the global poor is therefore not to assist them but to rectify injustice But does the global order harm the poor I argue elsewhere that there is a sense in which this is indeed so at least if a certain empirical thesis is accepted 1 However in this essay I seek to show that the global order not only does not harm the poor but can plausibly be credited with the considerable improvements in human wellbeing that have been achieved over the last 200 years Much of what Pogge says about our duties toward developing countries is therefore false Let me begin by clarifying what I mean by the global political and economic order the global order For the first time in history there is one continuous global society based on territorial sovereignty This system has emerged from the spread of European control since the fifteenth century and the formation of new states through wars of independence and decolonization Even systems that escaped Western Imperialism had to follow legal and diplomatic practices imposed by Europeans This state system is governed by a set of rules the most important of which are embodied in This paper was originally presented at an author meets critic session held during the Eastern APA on December 30 2003 I am grateful to the audience for helpful discussion as well as to Christian Barry for helpful comments 1 I argue this in my forthcoming paper How Does the Global Order Harm the Poor The empirical thesis mentioned is the view that economic progress turns primarily on the quality of institutions The view that the global order harms the poor in ways delineated by the institutional thesis is consistent with the view that that order must also plausibly be credited with massive improvements which is



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