Affluent developed nations hold 14.9% of the world’s population but 79.7% of its aggregate global income[1]. Global inequalities are greater today than they were 50 to100 years ago even though the world has become more connected through globalisation[2] . This gap will continue to grow because of political and financial power[3]. Socioeconomic rights such as a standard of living that is adequate to provide health and well being for an individual and their family would require only a barely noticeable shift in the distribution of global income[4]. This is attributed to a Western ‘double standard’ by the political philosopher Thomas W. Pogge[5]. This essay will assert through the exploring some of Pogge’s work, and the theories of  his supporters and detractors, why a “double-standard” arises in regard to global justice and contend that those who live in such wealthy nations cannot justify the perpetuation of such a double-standard.

 Liberal political philosophy believes that all human beings are morally equal. These moral principles thus become moral benefits and burdens to all, formulated so as not to arbitrarily disadvantage or privilege certain persons or groups[6]. However, traditional liberal moral philosophy has held that equal treatment of individuals only pertains to the small nation state of which they are citizens, rather than the equality of the entire world population[7]. The justification of a domestic focus for moral equality has three forms. First it states that we must look after our own, which is a concept that originates in human affiliation and community ties[8]. Secondly, it argues that only nations can determine the administration of justice, and thirdly that the principles of distribution cannot work as well internationally as they can domestically[9].

The British philosopher Alaisdair MacIntyre argues that the morality of impartialism, which is the basis for global justice, runs counter to the morality of patriotism which generates moral reasons to be partial to one’s fellow citizens[10]. However, this argument even goes so far as to state that in a conflict over scarce resources that one’s community’s interests can be paramount over the interests of another community. The Israeli academic and politician Yael Tamir, argues that nationality is important for personal identity and self-understanding and needs a shared public space in which its culture can flourish and be protected[11]. However, the global liberalist, Michael Ignatieff, contends with this by stating that this type of ideal results in the least well-off having no meaningful right to any moral obligation merely because of their disenfranchisement [12]. Neither of these arguments establishes that a nation’s or a culture’s importance is paramount to the survival of other nations or cultures.

The American political philosopher, John Rawls, objects to global justice on the grounds that it is unacceptable for one people to bear certain costs of decisions made by another- such as decisions on industrialization or birth rate[13]. However, Pogge asserts that Rawls does not explain why this does not analogously relate to national societies as well[14]. Secondly, Rawls objects to the global application of liberal standards because there is a need to accommodate certain non-liberal societies[15]. Pogge counters this by stating that non-liberal societies and their populations tend to be poor but willing to cooperate in reforms that would bring global economic order ‘closer to meeting a liberal standard of economic justice’[16].

Pogge argues that people coexist through a system of global economics that aggravates great inequalities which demand global justice[17]. But the question then becomes should the same or different principles of justice apply on both national and international levels[18]? The fortune of where one is born should not entitle one to hold oneself distinct for equivalent moral treatment[19]. Pogge states that moral universalism, being equal moral status for all, is only applicable if it subjects all people to the same system of moral principles[20].

Although moral principles assign fundamental moral benefits and burdens to all, assertion of a ‘double standard’ refers to the contention that most people in affluent countries think that the global economic order is just- even though it does not meet the minimal requirements that we place on national economic order[21]. The first of these minimal requirements is that, allowing for justice, social rules should be free to peaceful change by the large majority on whom they are imposed[22].  Pogge states that the global economic order relies upon stability imposed by a non-elected state whose minority control the rules and depend upon the security of great military power[23].

In his book Global Justice (2001) Pogge states that wealthy societies contribute through the imposition of their own policies and the global economic institutions that they control, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, to the denial of human rights in developing countries[24]. Pogge advocates that it is these wealthy nations’ responsibility to stop imposing a detrimental global economic order and to mitigate the harms caused by them[25]. To assert that it is a charity or a humanitarian need denies the fact that it is demand of justice and a moral duty that affluent nations are obligated to assist the human rights of the impoverished[26]

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realised”[27]. Because of this it can be argued that wealthy countries violate the rights of the poor in underdeveloped nations by collaborating with existing illegitimate governments and aggravating poverty, through protectionism, land and resource grabs, and denial of agricultural and medical technology[28]. The resource base upon which all economies of the world depend give wealthy nations benefits which poorer nations are excluded from. These inequalities are perpetuated by a global system that still reflects the basis of colonialism[29].

The legitimacy of the social system goes to the heart of the ideals of liberal justice, therefore a global society requires an examination of the means of global morality, such as the form and nature that such a society would take[30]. Rawls argues for two principles that should govern the formation of a just society: a) the principle of equal liberty where each person has an equal right to liberty and b) the difference principle where socio-economic inequalities are arranged so that they are both a benefit to the least advantaged and give equality of opportunity to all instruments of power[31]. Pogge argues that if the difference principle was applied on a global level, it would imply that global inequalities are unjust[32].

Pogge argues that economic, trade and cultural links between the individuals of various nations are enough to form a system of global cooperation[33]. Pogge, in particular, argues that there are sufficient institutional relationships of trade and law to allow a single global system of trade and justice[34]. He states that what follows from the application of such a system is an ‘international pluralism’ which allows respect for other states’ methods of economic organisation[35]. The application of a difference principle could then be applied internationally to allow a just maximization for the expectation of the global poor[36]. Pogge propositions that a system of federal globalism could be possible whereby a state may favour its own citizens as long as it acts under an international jurisdiction and that both international and  national institutions can work together to produce a just, economic order[37].

A system of global justice is not only a necessity but it is also a priority. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed at the United Nations by all wealthy developed nations in 1948[38]. Since that time the essential articles of that Declaration have been ignored and global inequality has grown.  The Declaration was based on the liberal ideal that all humans are morally equal and that one’s nationality or race should not hold one distinct for unfair or beneficial treatment. Despite this, the wealthy nations of the world continue to oppose a harsh economic order upon the global poor so that their own positions of power will be maintained. The double standard is that while Western wealthy nations think that the global economic order is just, it does not even meet the minimum standards of their own national concept of moral equality. This can be addressed through the global cooperative systems that are in place today and need only the desire of wealthy nations to mitigate the damage that they have perpetrated by ceding a small portion of their sovereignty to a federal global system that can build a fair and just economic order.


  1. Beitz, C. (2001). ‘Does Global Inequality Matter?’ Metaphilosophy 32 (1/2), pp. 95-112.
  2. Pogge, T. (2002). World Poverty and Human Rights. Oxford, Blackwell, pp. 91-2; 94-101;108-117.
  1. Blake, Michael, “International Justice”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2008 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <;  Retrieved: 2 August 2011
  2. Mackenzie C., 2011, Lecture 19, Philosophy, Morality and Society, Macquarie University, Sydney
  3. Pogge T. W., (2001), “Priorities of Global Justice”, Global Justice, Ed. Thomas Pogge, Blackwell Publishing Oxford pp.6-23
  1. Pogge T., (2007), “Poverty and Human Rights”, Retrieved: 2 August 2011
  2. Universal Declaration Of Human Rights- Retrieved: 10 August 2011
  3. Walker M. Dr., 2011, Lecture 20, Philosophy, Morality and Society, Macquarie University, Sydney

[1] Mackenzie C., 2011, Lecture 19, Philosophy, Morality and Society, Macquarie University

[2] Beitz, C. (2001). ‘Does Global Inequality Matter?’ Metaphilosophy 32 (1/2), p.95

[3] ibid

[4] Pogge, T. (2002). World Poverty and Human Rights. Oxford, Blackwell, p.92

[5] ibid

[6] ibid:93



[9] ibid

[10] ibid

[11] ibid


[13] Pogge, T. (2002). World Poverty and Human Rights p.105

[14] ibid

[15] ibid:106

[16]Pogge, T. (2002). World Poverty and Human Rights p.107

[17] Pogge, T.W., (2001), “Priorities of Global Justice”, Global Justice, Wiley-Blackwell, p.14

[18] Walker M. Dr., Lecture 20,  2011, Philosophy, Morality and Society, Macquarie University


[20] Pogge, T., (2002), World Poverty and Human Rights p.93

[21] Pogge, T. (2002). World Poverty and Human Rights p.96

[22] Pogge, T. (2002). World Poverty and Human Rights p.96

[23] Pogge, T. (2002). World Poverty and Human Rights p.96

[24] Pogge, T.W., (2001) “Priorities of Global Justice”, Global Justice, Wiley-Blackwell, p.12

[25] ibid:22

[26] Pogge T., (2007), “Poverty and Human Rights”,

[27] ibid

[28] Pogge T., (2007), “Poverty and Human Rights”,

[29] ibid


[31] Walker M. Dr., 2011, Philosophy, Morality and Society

[32] ibid




[36] ibid

[37] ibid