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This essay critically assesses Anna Stilz's argument in Territorial Sovereignty: A Philosophical Exploration that legitimate states have a right to do wrong. I concede that individuals enjoy a claim against external interference when they commit suberogatory acts, but I deny that the right to do wrong extends to acts that would violate the rights of others. If this is correct, then one must do more than merely invoke an individual's right to do wrong if one hopes to vindicate a legitimate state's right to commit injustices. Of course, there may be distinctive features of legitimate states that explain why they enjoy moral protections that individuals lack, but I argue that the value of collective self-determination is not up to this task. And even if these arguments fail, self-determination would at most explain why legitimate states enjoy a right to commit injustices against their own citizens; it would provide them no moral protection when they violate the rights of outsiders.
COVID-19 vaccines are likely to be scarce for years to come. Many countries, from India to the U.K., have demonstrated vaccine nationalism. What are the ethical limits to this vaccine nationalism? Neither extreme nationalism nor extreme cosmopolitanism is ethically justifiable. Instead, we propose the fair priority for residents (FPR) framework, in which governments can retain COVID-19 vaccine doses for their residents only to the extent that they are needed to maintain a noncrisis level of mortality while they are implementing reasonable public health interventions. Practically, a noncrisis level of mortality is that experienced during a bad influenza season, which society considers an acceptable background risk. Governments take action to limit mortality from influenza, but there is no emergency that includes severe lockdowns. This “flu-risk standard” is a nonarbitrary and generally accepted heuristic. Mortality above the flu-risk standard justifies greater governmental interventions, including retaining vaccines for a country's own citizens over global need. The precise level of vaccination needed to meet the flu-risk standard will depend upon empirical factors related to the pandemic. This links the ethical principles to the scientific data emerging from the emergency. Thus, the FPR framework recognizes that governments should prioritize procuring vaccines for their country when doing so is necessary to reduce mortality to noncrisis flu-like levels. But after that, a government is obligated to do its part to share vaccines to reduce risks of mortality for people in other countries. We consider and reject objections to the FPR framework based on a country: (1) having developed a vaccine, (2) raising taxes to pay for vaccine research and purchase, (3) wanting to eliminate economic and social burdens, and (4) being ineffective in combating COVID-19 through public health interventions.
In this essay, I argue that absent special circumstances, there are no moral, judicial procedural rights. I divide this essay into four main sections. First, I argue that there is no general moral right against double jeopardy. Next, I explain why punishing a criminal without first establishing her guilt via a fair trial does not necessarily violate her rights. In the third section, I respond to a number of possible objections. And finally, I consider the implications of my arguments for the human right to due process.
No political theorist of the twentieth century has been more celebrated than John Rawls, and none has been more frequently misinterpreted. A Theory of Justice (TJ) was routinely misunderstood because readers were unprepared for the breathtakingly original types of arguments therein. Political Liberalism (PL) was systematically misjudged because many of us did not understand that it was concerned principally with legitimacy rather than justice. In this essay, I suggest that many commentators may have also misinterpreted John Rawls's project in The Law of Peoples (LP). In particular, I raise the possibility that many of the standard criticisms of this work miss their mark by presuming that Rawls sought to offer a comprehensive theory of global justice, when he meant more minimally to respond to a specific, practical problem: “How can we eliminate the great evils of human history?”
I divide this essay into three sections. First, I offer a very brief summary of The Law of Peoples. In the second section, I survey a number of criticisms that have been raised against Rawls's arguments and the conclusions he draws from them. Finally, I suggest an alternative interpretation of LP, one that both squares with Rawls's own description of his project and enables the rebuttal of the standard objections to this work.
In this article I argue that critics of John Rawls's The Law of Peoples wrongly presume that Rawls sought to offer a comprehensive theory of global justice, when he meant more minimally to respond to a specific practical problem: “How can we eliminate the great evils of human history?” I concede that my reading is not uniformly supported by all aspects of the text, but The Law of Peoples is a rich and complex work that does not univocally recommend any single reading, and my construal squares with Rawls's own description of the project. More importantly, my interpretation is recommended by the principle of charity, insofar as it provides Rawls with plausible responses to the commonly-voiced objections. In other words, if Rawls is understood as offering a comprehensive theory of global justice, then many of the standard criticisms appear quite damning. But if his aim is the more modest one of recommending how liberal (and decent) societies might permissibly organize their foreign policies so as to help eliminate unjust war, oppression, religious persecution and the denial of liberty of conscience, starvation, poverty, genocide and mass murder, then Rawls's book is not problematic in the ways that so many have supposed.
An amnesty is granted when an individual or group of individuals is given immunity, typically before being put on trial or convicted. It is important to think systematically about when amnesties should be granted (and respected by the international community) because a country's use of amnesties can dramatically affect its capacity to pursue justice, reconciliation, peace, and stability.
There are at least three distinct questions regarding amnesties: (1) Under what conditions is it rational to grant amnesties? (2) Under what conditions is it morally permissible to grant an amnesty? and (3) Under what conditions must the international community respect amnesties granted by individual domestic governments? I will address each of these questions here, commenting most extensively on the last.
When Is It Rational to Offer Amnesty?
Ideally, one would like a policy on amnesties that both maximizes justice and establishes the appropriate incentive structure for all the relevant parties, especially military and political leaders. It is not clear that such a policy exists, however, because often we must choose between securing retributive justice or paving the way toward future peace and stability. Consider the case of a country ruled by a dictator, for instance. What should this country do if its tyrant agrees to relinquish power on the condition that she and her associates are granted complete immunity for any crimes committed while in power? If the citizens want retributive justice, presumably they should not pardon the ruler.
After defining a hate crime as an offense in which the criminal selects the victim at least in part because of an animus toward members of the group to which the victim belongs, this essay surveys the standard justifications for state punishment en route to defending the permissibility of imposing stiffer penalties for hate crimes. It also argues that many standard instances of rape and domestic battery are hate crimes and may be punished as such.
At first blush, it would not seem terribly difficult to construct a compelling argument in defense of unlimited, unilateral rights to secede: One need only appeal to the right to freedom of association. Think, for instance, of how we regard marital and religious self-determination. Freedom of association is paramount in marital relations; we insist that a marriage should take place only between consenting partners. I may not be forced against my will to marry anyone, and I likewise have no right to force an unwilling partner to marry me. Not only do we have the right to determine whom we would like to marry, each of us has the discretion to decide whether or not to marry at all, and those of us who are married have the right to unilateral divorce. In short, any law requiring us to marry by a certain age, specifying whom we may or may not marry, or prohibiting divorce would impermissibly restrict our freedom of association.
Freedom of religion is in many ways more complicated, but most of us feel similarly about religious affiliation: Whether, how, and with whom I attend to my humanity is up to me as an individual. If I elect to explore my religious nature in community with others, I have no duty to do so with anyone in particular and no right to demand that others allow me to join them in worship.
The functional theory of secession runs counter to the dominant trends in the literature not only because it allows secession in the absence of injustice but also insofar as it focuses on the political capabilities rather than the cultural characteristics of the separatist party. This is striking because the majority of those receptive to political self-determination recommend redrawing political boundaries so as to better accommodate culturally defined nations. In this chapter, I argue that, although there is some truth in nationalism, any account of political self-determination that focuses principally on a group's status as a nation is misguided.
Thoroughgoing nationalists typically defend a threefold thesis: (1) There is nothing inappropriate about identifying with one's nation and conationals; (2) conationals have special obligations toward one another; and (3) each nation has a right to political self-determination. Although only the third prong of this tripartite thesis (the “nationalist principle”) is directly relevant to secession, I will briefly examine the first two nationalist claims as well, because the three theses are generally taken to be mutually supporting. Thus, after an introductory section in which I explain my use of the term “nation,” I divide this chapter into five main parts. First, I consider the appropriateness of identifying with one's nation and conationals. Next, I examine whether conationals have special obligations to one another. In the third section, I argue that a group's status as a nation can play at most a secondary role in establishing its right to secede.
This book aims to supply a thorough and unapologetic defense of the right to secede. In particular, it argues that any group has a moral right to secede as long as its political divorce will leave it and the remainder state in a position to perform the requisite political functions.
To call this thesis a minority position is an understatement. Though the twin doctrines of state sovereignty and territorial integrity are currently undergoing a dramatic reassessment, and though most theorists now acknowledge that a group may have a remedial right to secede when it has suffered severe and long-standing injustices at the hands of its state, it remains highly controversial to suggest that a group might have a right to separate even when its state has in no way treated it unjustly. Moreover, the majority of those who champion a primary right to secede presume that such political self-determination must come under a nationalist banner. Thus, my view is doubly controversial: Not only does it allow for the unilateral division of perfectly legitimate states, it does not mandate that the separatists be a culturally distinct minority group.
It would not be surprising for an anarchist to be so open to state breaking, but I defend secessionist rights despite being a statist. As I shall argue, there is nothing contradictory or otherwise problematic about valuing legitimate states, on the one hand, and permitting their division on the other.
The most sophisticated critics of primary right theories of secession raise institutional concerns: They contend that, no matter how compelling the moral case for political self-determination, the right to secede should not be institutionally protected. In the next chapter, I will survey concerns about designing international laws that permit unilateral political divorce; in this chapter, I consider arguments against creating domestic constitutions that honor a primary right to secede. In particular, I examine Cass Sunstein's arguments that institutionally recognizing the right to secede will corrupt democratic decision making by allowing minority groups to hold their compatriots hostage. The worry is that, by threatening to secede, groups will be able to coerce and/or exploit their fellow citizens out of more than their fair share of the benefits of political cooperation. In response, I acknowledge that respecting secessionist rights might well change the dynamics of political decision making, but I regard this largely as providing reasons in favor of constitutionally recognizing the right to secede. In my view, democracies are currently corrupt and stand to be improved by extending to groups the political leverage that would likely accompany having the right to exit.
This chapter is divided into four sections. First, I recapitulate Cass Sunstein's objection and suggest that one of his chief concerns is about secessionist groups potentially coercing and/or exploiting their compatriots. I then argue that, because coercion and exploitation are sometimes permissible, we must restrict our inquiry to impermissible coercion and exploitation.
First published in 2005, A Theory of Secession: The Case for Political Self-Determination offers an unapologetic defense of the right to secede. Christopher Heath Wellman argues that any group has a moral right to secede as long as its political divorce will leave it and the remainder state in a position to perform the requisite political functions. He explains that there is nothing contradictory about valuing legitimate states, while permitting their division. Once political states are recognized as valuable because of the functions that they are uniquely suited to perform, it becomes apparent that the territorial boundaries of existing states might permissably be redrawn as long as neither the process, nor the result of this reconfiguration, interrupts the production of the crucial political benefits. Thus, if one values self-determination, then one has good reason to conclude that people have a right to determine their political boundaries.
The samaritan theory of political legitimacy outlined in the preceding chapter illustrates that territorial states are necessary, but it is important to recognize that there is nothing about the necessity of political society that requires us to retain our current states in their existing configurations. There is no reason, for instance, why a statist cannot consistently recommend that territorial borders be redesigned so that states are made more stable, more efficient, more in keeping with historically legitimate claims to land, or perhaps more aligned with the ethno-cultural characteristics of their constituents. A theorist concerned with stability might suggest that states take whatever shape is least likely to change over time; someone interested in efficiency might reshape states so that they are best suited to perform their requisite functions; those concerned with historical claims to territory might seek to redraw political boundaries in an attempt to undo the history of unjust annexations, dubious treaties, and ethnic cleansing; and an advocate of nation-states could recommend tracing political borders along the lines of ethnic and cultural distinctions. While all four of these alternatives are consistent with statism, I advocate a fifth option that is more in line with that recommended by authors such as Harry Beran, David Copp, David Gauthier, and Daniel Philpott: Citizens ought to be allowed to redraw political boundaries in any way that is politically feasible.