Category Archives: Thomas Pogge

Thomas Pogge

The resource privilege we confer upon a group in power is much more than mere acquiescence in its effective control over the natural resources of the country in question. This privilege includes the power to effect legally valid transfers of ownership rights in such resources. Thus a corporation that has purchased resources from the Saudis or Suharto, or from Mobuto or Sani Abacha, has thereby become entitled to be—and actually is—recognized anywhere in the world as the legitimate owner of these resources. This is a remarkable feature of our global order. A group that overpowers the guards and takes control of a warehouse may be able to give some of the merchandise to others, accepting money in exchange. But the fence who pays them becomes merely the possessor, not the owner, of the loot. Contrast this with a group that overpowers an elected government and takes control of a country. Such a group, too, can give away some of the country’s natural resources, accepting money in exchange. In this case, however, the purchaser acquires not merely possession, but all the rights and liberties of ownership, which are supposed to be—and actually are—protected and enforced by all other states’ courts and police forces. The international resource privilege, then, is the legal power to confer globally valid ownership rights in a country’s resources.

Thomas Pogge, ‘Severe Poverty as a Human Rights Violation’, in Pogge (ed.), Freedom from Poverty As a Human Right: Who Owes What to the Very Poor?, New York, 2007, pp. 48-49

Thomas Pogge

Nozick wants to make it appear that laissez-faire institutions are natural and define the baseline distribution which Rawls then seeks to revise ex post trough redistributive transfers. Nozick views the first option as natural and the second as making great demands upon the diligent and the gifted. He allows that, with unanimous consent, people can make the switch to the second scheme; but, if some object, we must stick to the first. Rawls can respond that a libertarian basic structure and his own more egalitarian liberal-democratic alternative are potions on the same footing: the second is, in a sense, demanding on the gifted, if they would do better under the first-but then the first is, in the same sense and symmetrically, demanding on the less gifted, who would do much better under the second scheme.

Thomas Pogge, ‘An Egalitarian Law of Peoples’, Philosophy & Public Affairs, vol. 23, no. 3 (Summer, 1994), p. 212

Thomas Pogge

[D]eveloped states have been more willing to appeal to moral values and to use such appeals in justification of initiatives—such as the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia—that would have been unthinkable during the Cold War. But these appeals only heighten the puzzle. If it makes sense to spend billions to endanger thousands of lives in order to rescue a million people from Serb oppression, would it not make more sense to spend similar sums, without endangering any lives, on leading many millions out of life-threatening poverty?

Thomas Pogge, ‘Priorities of Global Justice’, in Thomas Pogge (ed.), Global Justice, Oxford, 2001, pp. 6-7

Thomas Pogge

When Hume’s reflections confronted him with the baselessness of all human reasoning and belief, he found it most fortunate that “nature herself” ensures that he would not long linger in such dark skepticism: “I dine, I play a game of back-gammon, I converse, and am merry with my friends; and when after three or four hours’ amusement, I wou’d return to these speculations, they appear so cold, so strain’d, and ridiculous, that I cannot find it in my heart to enter into them any farther.”

When Parfit’s reflections led him to a reductionist view of personal identity, he found it unfortunate that one cannot long maintain this view of the world, which removes the glass wall between oneself and others and makes one care less about one’s own death. Focusing on his arguments, one can only briefly stun one’s natural concern for one’s own future by reconceiving oneself in accordance with the reductionist view.

Our world is arranged to keep us far away from massive and severe poverty and surrounds us with affluent, civilized people for whom the poor abroad are a remote good cause alongside the spotted owl. In such a world, the thought that we are involved in a monumental crime against these people, that we must fight to stop their dying and suffering, will appear so cold, so strained, and ridiculous, that we cannot find it in our heart to reflect on it any farther. That we are naturally myopic and conformist enough to be easily reconciled to the hunger abroad may be fortunate for us, who can “recognize ourselves,” can lead worthwhile and fulfilling lives without much thought about the origins of our affluence. But it is quite unfortunate for the global poor, whose best hope may be our moral reflection.

Thomas Pogge, World Poverty and Human Rights: Cosmopolitan Responsibilities and Reforms, Cambridge, 2002, p. 26

Thomas Pogge

As could be shown at much greater length, there is no truth in the notion of our governments and their foreign ministers, diplomats, and negotiators being motivated by humanitarian concerns that international law as it stands obliges them to suppress. […]

There are no humanitarian heroes among those who exercise power in our names. This is why we are treated to a purely hypothetical example. This hypothetical appeals irresistibly to the good sense of any person whose humanity has not been thoroughly corrupted. Yes of course, we exclaim, the law (and much else) may and must be set aside to save 800,000 people from being hacked to death merely because they are Tutsis or want to live in peace with them. But when the lesson will be accepted and the plain meaning of the Charter will be viewed as unworthy of defense, then it is not the good sense of Thomas Franck and us citizens that will fill the vacuum. Rather, outcomes will then be determined by the “good sense” of those whose humanity has been corrupted through their ascent to national office, through their power, and through the adversarial character of their role: by the good sense of people like Clinton, Albright, and Kofi Annan, who enabled the genocide in Rwanda, by the good sense of people like Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld, who are more interested in liberating oil fields abroad than human beings. To be sure, the overt or covert violence unleashed by such politicians—regularly rationalized as humanitarian—sometimes happens to prevent more harm than it produces. But the overall record over the last 60 years is not encouraging.

Thomas Pogge, ‘Power v. Truth: Realism and Responsibility’, in Terry Nardin and Melissa S. Williams (eds.), Humanitarian Intervention, New York, 2006, p. 166

Thomas Pogge

The eradication of malaria would offer us enhanced travel opportunities in tropical regions. It would greatly improve the economic performance in many (especially African) countries which, through trade, would have direct and indirect positive economic effects on ourselves. And it would gain us a great deal of good will for poor populations who are currently, quite understandably, suspecting our humanitarian concerns to be highly selective: We are willing to spend billions to protect disaffected Kosovars and Iraqis from the brutalities of Milosovic and Saddam Hussein, but ignore very much larger numbers of human beings who are exterminated by genocide (Rwanda) or starvation and could be saved at very much lower cost.

Thomas Pogge, ‘Testing Our Drugs on the Poor Abroad’, in Ezekiel Emanuel and Jennifer Hawkins (eds.), Exploitation and Multi-National Research, Princeton, 2008