1 Thomas Pogge: World Poverty and Human Rights: Cosmopolitan Responsibilities and Reforms. 0000001573 00000 n But in the case of medicines, green technologies and seeds in agriculture, such an alternative reward mechanism is fairly straightforward. Global Tax Fairness. The program has a special interest in the evolution of severe poverty and its relationship with public health. So many poor countries' citizens end up paying off odious debt over decades despite having had no say in acquiring it. We should help but are not causing harm if we donât. These words have been strung together by human beings and are also interpreted and enforced by human beings. So would a celebration of moral progress have been appropriate in 1850? 0000003062 00000 n Thomas PoggeâPolitics as Usual: What Lies Behind the Pro-Poor Rhetoric T1 Notes 1 In Pogge, World Poverty and Human Rights, p. 104, I described such a monument. And that's a big change that happened in the United States in the last 30 or 40 years. It is the fault of the dominant states and of the system of international law they maintain. Some focus on a moral obligation to devote a great deal of our personal incomes to nongovernmental organizations as a duty to help, because not donating money to saving the lives of the global poor is akin to walking past a child drowning in a pond and not wishing to ruin one's shoes. And they wouldn't be fighting so hard over them if they didn't know that the design of these rules makes a difference to their own economic position. It's a system that generates hundreds of billions of dollars in litigation costs and deadweight losses that HIF-registered medicines would sidestep. In this Truthout interview, Pogge probes the causes of world poverty and advocates for his latest initiative to provide the world's poor with better access to medicine. 0000089021 00000 n We need to study such models and promising pathways on which our existing decisionmaking procedures can be gradually reformed. This system is collectively irrational because many people, to avoid the inflated prices of still-patented cleaner and greener technologies, opt for some older technology that is much more polluting. So, large companies are very good at solving extremely complex problems in a globally optimal way. The reason for this is obvious on reflection. You can easily buy such services at one-fiftieth the price you would pay in London, Hamburg or Manhattan. So car prices play a large role in calculating PPPs even while they play no role whatsoever in the consumption or consumption needs of the poor. 0000002643 00000 n For example, Transparency International puts out a list of the most corrupt states, and it always features easy targets like Chad, Somalia and Sudan. You will also find a conversation with Dean Karlan about effective solutions to poverty problems in this week. KB: Up until the economic crisis that took place a couple of years back, many people did not look to institutional moral analysis to explain a wide range of phenomena, like why someone might not have a job, for example. By using general consumption PPPs, the World Bank is, in effect, saying to the poor: "Sure, you cannot buy as much food as the dollar value we attribute to your income would buy in the United States. This was highlighted in the Organization of African Unity report on the behavior of the various countries and who did what in the Rwanda episode, "Rwanda: The Preventable Genocide," especially sections 17.30 and 17.33. 3 (2004), p. 387. Such reforms would bring opportunity costs for the affluent, which might be larger or smaller than the sought $507 billion gain in the incomes of the poor. The increasingly widespread expression "global justice" marks an important shift in the structure of moral discourse. In many jurisdictions, you can deposit money anonymously with no questions asked, even if the accepting bank knows that it derives from criminal activities. I think that many citizens understand how our system works, or rather, fails to work, for structural reasons. THOMAS POGGE, WORLD POVERTY AND HUMAN RIGHTS: COSMOPOLITAN RESPONSIBILITIES AND REFORMS 2 (2002). KB: One counterargument they may use is, "Hey, certain goods are relatively cheaper in developing countries, but there are other goods and services that are relatively more expensive, like electronics and fast food. This is subject to the same sorts of regulatory capture which then drives the persistence of severe poverty I mentioned earlier. I have now strengthened my case by adding that the official PPP equivalent of $1.25 in poor countries actually buys a lot less food than $1.25 buys in the US. To a large extent, the intellectual class that you belong to tends to dismiss such a view as a "conspiracy theory." This includes all cases of extreme poverty, which according to the World Bank's scandalously narrow definition, are those who live on $1.25 a day or less. To be sure, one citizen, or a few, may be powerless if all the rest are determined to benefit from the imposition of unjust supranational rules. So the ratio between the averages in the top five percent and the bottom quarter is somewhere around 300 to one—a huge inequality that also gives you a sense of how easily poverty could be avoided. But who has the capacity and the incentives to bring change? KB: Usually, the people that criticize "crony capitalism"—but only the third-world kind—differ with you on the past 20 to 30 years of economic trends. TP: Governments and their hired negotiators are designing these supranational rules and pressing for their adoption and for compliance—and the US government first and foremost. This is partly due to the fact that they operate with push-funding and thus have an incentive to spend more on, and seek more money for, an existing project even if another one now seems more cost-effective. In addition to your pragmatic effort on behalf of the health of the global poor, you promote a forthright critique of international affairs that coincides with 80 percent of the general public of the US, which, in a 2008 poll, believed that the government is "run by a few big interests looking out for themselves." Because hedge fund managers pay legislators to have this special perk—not cash delivered secretly in brown paper bags, but money given in bright daylight through official channels. UPS is another example where they are able to get the parcels to the most remote locations at an incredibly low price. John Rawls: His Life and Theory of Justice. These large multinational corporations, often acting through their industry lobbies, also exert a powerful influence on the formulation of domestic rules and on their application—but their influence on supranational institutional design is even larger because it faces practically no opposition there. This sounds like magic. They won't accept the policies that were rammed down their throats. There are also institutional structures where they at least have some say in the decisionmaking processes of German corporations, for example. Pogge (2010) believes that institutions producing foreseeable and avoidable harms are unjust and result in extreme poverty. These governments are elected by us, funded by us, acting on our behalf, sensitive to our will, and so, we are not mere bystanders observing the injustice. A few hundred years ago, perhaps 85 or even 90 percent of humanity lived below a standard of living that today only 40 or 45 percent fail to reach. Thomas Pogge has been teaching moral and political philosophy at Columbia University since receiving his Ph.D. in philosophy from Harvard University. Thomas W.Pogge: âRawls on International Justiceâ, Philosophical Quarterly51 (2001), 246-53, at 251-2). 0000000820 00000 n 0000003646 00000 n This is, again, relatively familiar in the domestic case, where we now condemn slavery as unjust. Their most recent publication is 'Fighting global poverty'. Why? Global Financial Integrity estimates that less-developed countries have lost at least $342 billion per annum in this way during the 2000 to 2008 period. But if, as you say, the number of poor in these countries is drastically undercounted and there are better development models that can be envisioned and implemented, there's much less of a reason to accept such high emissions increases. KB: And food makes up about 70 percent of poor peoples' consumption. So the World Bank's method of comparing and converting everything at general purchasing power parities into US dollars is highly distorting within an exercise whose purpose it is to determine whether households are or are not capable of meeting their basic consumption needs. The bottom quarter of the human population has only three-quarters of one percent of global household income, about one thirty-second of the average income in the world, whereas the people in the top five percent have nine times the average income. Talk about the logical and empirical problems with this view, as you see them. We're all familiar with assigning blame to an individual for hitting someone's car, but not with assessing the morality of the speed limit or lack of a stoplight. I am asking people to think similarly about the world economy. You never see Switzerland in the top ten. KB: One thing that's striking is that these points are intuitive, whereas your work mentions the "demanding" task of conceiving "institutional morality." Originally from Germany, Thomas Pogge received a PhD in philosophy from Harvard in 1983. They don't exist naturally, nor are they God-given. This will, in some cases, lead to compromises. If the Health Impact Fund were to be instituted, a single company would be in charge of a medical product all the way from its conception to the health improvements realized by actual patients. There exist better models of decisionmaking, for the governance of states, corporations and other large organizations, for example in Germany, as you say. The collective income of all these people—the bottom half—is less than three percent of global household income, and so there is a grotesque maldistribution of income and wealth. But that the prize is there is really not the fault of the insiders. While this finding gets no air time, the Bank and the media continue to propagate the story that the global elite wishes to be told: that the number of poor has declined by 24 percent in those 15 years. It is this sort of thought that I'm appealing to at the supranational level. Thomas Pogge Introduction ... understate the world poverty problem (Reddy and Pogge 2007). It allows banks to accept funds gained from tax evasion and other crimes and thereby facilitates and encourages embezzlement by public officials, especially in developing countries, as well as tax evasion and tax avoidance by multinational corporations. KB: This touches on some practical engagement and policies. True. Can you explain this controversial position? Domestic and supranational regulatory capture leads to two things: on the one hand, to an inequality spiral where the rich get richer because they can influence rulemaking and rule application in their favor; on the other hand, it also leads to instability. 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