Saturday, April 01, 2006

Dealing with Dictators

Thomas Pogge writes:
[G]lobal institutional arrangements we uphold encourage, stabilize, and aggravate tyrannical rule in many poor countries: Under the existing global rules, any person or group possessing effective power in a country is internationally recognized as entitled to sell the country’s natural resources and to borrow abroad, all in the name of the country’s people. These privileges are granted even to clearly illegitimate regimes — such as the military junta in Myanmar — who came to power by force and continue to rule by force against the clearly expressed will of the overwhelming majority of the population. By being given the privilege to sell the country’s natural resources and to borrow in its name, such rulers can acquire the money they need to pay for weapons and soldiers that help them stay in power. The people under their reign are harmed three times over: The natural resources of their country are lost, a national debt is accumulated, and the power of their oppressive rulers is increased. By what right do we enable tyrants to do this?



  1. I expect if you go to them they will say "I want money to do various things including building a hospital
    rather like any other country"
    and there is hte pragmatic consideration (maybe you jsut cant afford to fight them - or you can but you know it would have negitive utilitarain output)

    But I also agree with the point that there is some moral legitimacy in denying them these things.

  2. I actually wrote about this (or a very similar quotation) in my senior thesis.

    Generally, this kind of criticism is then associated with the idea that non-cosmopolitans cannot accomodate criticism of this kind of injustice because they accept that states have a kind of moral standing in an of themselves.

    I don't think this is necessarily the case. Nothing prevents social liberals from saying that resource appropriation and debt accumulation are rights that only accrue to a certain type of state, namely those that are internally constituted in such a way that we can plausibly argue that these resource appropriations and debt accumulations are the choice of the people.


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