Notes On: “Global Ethics: Seminal Essays” – One

In a previous post I looked at the definition of cosmopolitanism, and so I now which gears in my “Notes On…” posts and look at a few topics on cosmopolitanism. As I have worked slowly through “The Origins of Totalitarianism” my thoughts began to shift toward what a world without nation-states would be like. Cosmopolitanism was never a view I was particularly fond of in college, and even today I am not wholly sure if a pure cosmopolitan global society would be possible, or even wise. Yet, I think that it is important to consider its views in light of modern mass migrations.

Here I begin looking at Charles R. Beitz’s “Cosmopolitan Ideas and National Sentiment” from Global Justice: Seminal Essays.

“The distinguishing feature of the national ideas is not that it takes no account fo the interests of foreigners, but rather that is takes account fo (at least some of) their interests in a differ to way… we might say that the national idea rests on the thesis that “compatriots take priority.”

In principle, “compatriots take priority” is a good stance. It does not necessarily state that others are of less value, just that we have an immediate responsibility to those closest to us. Those that are within our nation of state.

“As with any principle that sanctions unequal treatment, we are bound to wonder whether the priority thesis has a moral warrant.”

I, in general, see no issue with the priority thesis, so long as the eventual treatment of others outside the nation or state are given equitably. If citizens within the state are given 10 widgets, those outside the state ought receive the same number of widgets.

Continuing after this line, Beitz leans into the negative aspect of the priority thesis that is all too real. Such that:

“…the basis on which the principle discriminates is a characteristic that is possessed nonvoluntary…”

Here he is speaking to the fact that states too often limit the amount of aid to outsiders due to characteristics such as race, religion, political stance, etc. For the average individual from another state, or a migrant, their identity is non-voluntary. Such discrimination is immoral.

“He claimed that open immigration “would not be really in the best interest of humanity at large” because it would defeat the state’s efforts to maintain its society’s internal cohesion, promote the growth of culture, and preserve the order and integrity of its domestic political process.”

This notion, against cosmopolitan views, is really just a blind. This argument has been used to hide built-in inequality of all states. They can made it by arguing that there is not enough wealth for more people to enter their boarders. This is of course a lie, at least for wealthy western states. It is not a matter of there not being enough wealth, it is a matter of those that hold the majority of the wealth not wanting to see the power that comes with that wealth slip away into another groups hands. Be it to those that already have citizenship within the state, or those that come to the state with a hope of gaining some of that wealth for themselves. What we have here is one of the many great lies of laissez faire capitalism.

“I have argued elsewhere… that the membership of the original position should be global rather than national because national societies are not, in fact, self-sufficient…”

Seemingly so when taken into the global market. Yet, when one looks at many large, at least western states, GDP’s it is clear it is not the case. Most have the capability to be self-sufficient, and support their population equitably, if their wealth was equitably distributed across the whole of the socioeconomic strata.

Beitz, Charles R. “Cosmopolitan Ideas and National Sentiment,” in Global Justice: Seminal Essays, ed. Thomas Pogge and Keith Horton (St Paul, MN: Paragon House, 2008), 107-117

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