David V. Axelsen

Global Redistributive Obligations in the Face of Severe Poverty

The dissertation discusses our redistributive obligations to foreigners and how these obligations are affected by the existence of severe and widespread poverty. Most people agree that we have an obligation to fulfill everyone’s basic needs and rights. However, obligations to compatriots are commonly thought of as significantly stronger, and in this context we should strive to secure equal opportunities for everyone as a matter of justice. This moral discrepancy is reflected in our current levels of redistribution: up to 50 % of our income on the domestic level and less than 1 % to poor foreigners through development aid. But can this overwhelming redistributive partiality be justified? 

In the debate on global justice, a number of theorists argue that this discrepancy can indeed be justified. Thus, to bring us closer to an answer regarding our redistributive obligations towards foreigners, I analyze and evaluate such arguments. My critical examination reveals a number of flaws in their line of thought. Instead, I defend an ideal of distributive justice according to which we should strive to ensure that everyone is free from significant pressure against succeeding in central areas of life. This, I claim, we owe to compatriots and foreigners alike. 

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