Arguments Against Equalizing Opportunities Globally

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new challenges to the ideal: David Miller and Gillian Brock

This chapter is divided into two sections, the first concentrates on David Miller and examines three objections offered against the formulation of a global principle of equality of opportunities, and against global egalitarianism more generally. The first objection offered challenges Moellendorf‘s account which attempts to endorse a conception of the ideal which consists in identicalising opportunities globally. The second focuses on the account offered by Caney and suggests that even though equivalent opportunities are justified at the domestic level, it is problematic and impossible to achieve this ideal globally. Finally, we examine the argument offered against a cosmopolitan conception of persons and we examine how it is that Miller comes to the conclusion that a cosmopolitan thesis does not entail equal respect for persons. Section two considers the arguments against the formulation of the ideal offered by Gillian Brock. The first argument examined is that there is no trouble-free way to approach the formulation of a positive ideal and thus, that we might be better off adhering to the negative intuition which gives us enough to do in the meantime. In asserting this line Brock demonstrates how it is that Moellendorf‘s account is far too culturally insensitive, and how it is that Caney‘s account allows at least three forms of discrimination; we examine both of these claims. The next assertion examined is that it might be best if we do not focus entirely on ‗equal‘ opportunities per se, but rather, that we focus on ‗decent‘ opportunities. Brock suggests that it might be wise to account for the way in which persons, if given the option, would opt for unequal opportunities which were decent, over equal opportunities which were indecent.

Section One: David Miller

This section is inspired by the work of David Miller and more specifically his article which disputes the relevance of global egalitarianism in our thinking about justice globally.167 This section broadly focuses on at least two questions. Firstly, if we are going to defend or presume the relevance of global egalitarianism then what is it that this ideal consists of? Secondly, how is it that global egalitarianism differs from domestic egalitarianism, and what are the implications of these differences? I will argue that global egalitarianism is relevant and, in particular, that a principle of equality of opportunities is relevant at the global level because it constitutes the ordinary assumptions that justify our disregard for others. I concede that Miller is right to point out that there are fundamental points of difference between domestic and global egalitarianism, but I claim (and will go on to argue) that this does not undermine the relevance of global egalitarianism. Darrel Moellendorf In response to Darrel Moellendorf‘s idea that equalizing opportunities globally will require that: A child growing up in rural Mozambique would be statistically as likely as the child of a senior executive at a Swiss bank to reach the position of the latter‘s parent.168 Miller suggests that this line of reasoning is faulty on at least two grounds, one which stems from a mistaken ideal of equality, and the other which makes unreasonable demands of us. Miller‘s first criticism of this conception stems from the way in which he thinks that it is based on a mistaken principle of equality.169 Miller claims that this account assumes a foundational or derivative account of equality rather than a functional account.170 According to Miller, there is a fundamental difference between global and domestic equality; to be precise, only a functional account of equality is relevant at the global level, and so an appeal to equality as a foundational ideal is improper.171 It is important to note that the structure of Miller‘s paper begins with this distinction between foundational and functional equality.172 His aim is to demonstrate how it is that neither foundational nor functional accounts of equality are relevant in discussions about global justice, and therefore, that principles which assume equality are indefensible. Note, however, that Miller does not want to suggest that equality is not something that we should concern ourselves with, rather, Miller wants to suggest that when we discuss the importance of equality globally we are in fact invoking something which is not so general. He thinks that what we should be concerned about is not equality, as such, but certain types of inequality, namely, that we should be concerned about inequalities of power.173 For example, Miller states that: Equality can be valued because inequality is seen as a source of injustice, without being unjust in itself…some of the reasons for objecting to global inequality that do not turn on the most powerful, is that material inequalities broadly conceived will naturally translate into inequalities of power, which then become a source of global injustice. The important point to make here then is that the claim is that inequalities are not, simply by themselves, unwarranted; but that certain kinds of inequalities such as those which result in inequalities of power are the cause of much injustice. Note that Miller offers us a distinct starting point which suggests that we do not try to promote equality but that we prevent unjustified inequalities instead. We go on to examine his foundational and functional distinction next. Inconsistency: Functional and Foundational Equality Miller differentiates and divides equality in two ways; he says that when we invoke a principle of equality it can be for either foundational or functional reasons.175 The basic distinction consists in the way that the value we place in the former is intrinsic, thus equality in and of itself is valuable; while the latter emphasizes an extrinsic value, meaning that the value we derive from it consists in what it ensures or prevents.176 The idea then is that foundational equality does not rely on any consequential or potential benefits; instead, the value of equality in this context exists because we recognize that equality is valuable. On the contrary, functional equality is outcome driven, equality in this case is valued for what it is that it creates or prevents. In this way, equality serves a purpose or function quite distinct from the foundational value mentioned above. The key point that Miller wants to make here is that domestic and global equality are not driven by the same concern and that instead domestic equality is foundational and global equality functional.177 His point is that our concern with global inequality is not one which stems from the problematically inherent nature of inequality; but rather, that it concerns us because of what it tells us about the state of the world.178 On the other hand, our concern with inequality at the social level has a more intimate bearing; it is based on the nature and value that we place on equality amongst each other.179 The key difference between these spheres is an associational one, which miller believes leads on to a key distinction between the types of equality we are concerned with.180 It is a difference which is socio-culturally values based, and it is based simply on the attachments that we formulate at the national level and the lack of attachment which results at the global level. The relevance of this associational attachment is that they drive two very distinct concerns for equality which Miller thinks demonstrates how equality at the domestic and global levels is distinct. I think that there are at least two points to make about foundational equality. If foundational equality is something which we recognize as having value in relation to other persons who share this notion then foundational equality presupposes a certain sort of social environment. Not only does this account then presume some type of national culture wherein persons believe in recognizing and being recognized as an equal, but it also presumes that the ideal cannot exist within arrangements where this kind of associative connection between persons is lacking. Therefore, the claim seems to follow that our associative ties disappear the further one draws their boundaries, and so that there is a limit to the relevance that foundational equality has. Overall, the claim is that the global sphere does not typify this environment, and so we cannot espouse foundational accounts of equality as relevant.181 Moreover, the crux of the argument suggests that when we try to extend the domestic (foundational) principle of equality globally, we end up with a misrepresentative distortion.182 Therefore, a consistent extension of the principle from the domestic to the global is actually impossible because the differences between them impede its extension. The argument that he offers suggests that there are differences in the domestic and global spheres which make our commitment to equality, the reasons behind our commitment, and the sort of equality we are looking for so distinct that any attempt to compare them would be to misunderstand the value that we place in it at the domestic level – and so to misrepresent it.183 I think that this distinction is, on the surface, rather plausible.184 There is something which separates us from others in the world, which, as Miller would argue, was our shared national connection and sense of national identity. Furthermore, it is true that there are mutually beneficial national institutions which bear on the way we view each other and the way we see ourselves in relation to those belonging to the same association. Likewise, our political, cultural, social, and geographical proximity and boundaries encourage a sense of belief in each other as worthy of, and entitled to, equal status. In this sense, there really is something missing from the global sphere, which bears on the way that we consider each other to be worthy of equal consideration. However, and while this is all true, we must at the same time acknowledge that much more is needed to accept that this distinction should justifiably bear on our thoughts about global equality and global principles which presuppose the importance of global equality. Clearly, we need to take this actuality into account, but we do not want to suggest that since something is a certain way, that it should also be a certain way. For instance, some theorists will argue that it is wrong to give national association a moral ranking higher than that of humanity and suggest that we are wrong to do so; and that this is the case even after we accept that most of us do so.185 Thus, Miller has not given us enough, as yet, to persuade us not to promote the associative allegiances within the global sphere, and he has done little to convince us that it is impossible to do so. In sum, Miller‘s claim is that we are appealing to two very different things in the domestic and global spheres. I think that Miller is right, but his foundational and functional distinction does not render global egalitarianism irrelevant. Miller only demonstrates how it is that the domestic principle is not as applicable as theorists (recall that one of Caney‘s justifications for his global ideal relies on the consistency between the domestic and global spheres) assume; however, he has not shown how it is that it could not be extended or become extendable. For the most part, we should not be convinced that Miller has explored all of the relevant avenues apparent in his distinction between foundational and functional equality186. However, it should be pointed out that Miller does not rely solely on this distinction as proof of the irrelevance of Moellendorf‘s account, or the ideal in general, and so we go on to examine his second objection next. An Unrealistic Account: Open Border Migration Miller thinks that Moellendorf‘s account is excessively utopian and that the demands which this formulation makes, some of which were mentioned earlier, are unrealistic.187 The problem which Miller points out is that if we adhere to Moellendorf‘s conception of the principle then we are bound to the idea that persons of the same talent and motivation should have identical opportunities. Problematically, the demands of such a principle include unlimited migration rights and unrestricted admission to citizenship simply because it would be impossible to ensure identical opportunities within each and every nation-state.188 Thus, in order to identicalise opportunities globally, we would have to either make sure that each nation had the same opportunities for all, or allow open migration – both of which he thinks is unrealistic. In saying this, the implication concerning what we would be required to do would be huge. Miller makes this clear when he says that: It would, for instance, require unlimited rights of migration coupled with unrestricted admission to citizenship…So unless advocates of global equality of opportunity envisage a borderless world in which everyone speaks Esperanto, it is more plausible to interpret the principle as requiring equivalent opportunity sets.189 Miller‘s point is that an extreme line such as that offered by Moellendorf is impractical because it forgets about opportunistic diversity. That is, it neglects the social, cultural, economic, and political differences inherent to particular societies which affect the range of opportunities available to and favored by persons in particular societies. Likewise, it suggests that the only way to ensure identical opportunities and to fulfill the principle is to allow open migration. In contrast, some theorists defend the right to freedom of movement, and open migration policies.190 Indeed, some suggest that it is an injustice stemming from an insider-outsider mentality which allows some to enjoy better prospects in life.191 However, it seems both impractical and unrealistic at this point to advocate open borders globally, as it would not directly address the problems that those suffering face. This is because, to advocate open border migration is to presuppose that persons have the opportunity, ability, and freedom of movement. Moreover, it is to neglect the real issues if we suppose that open migration is the immediate answer. Thomas Pogge demonstrates the inefficiency of open borders when he suggests that it is clear that scarce resources should not be spent on immigration.192 He adds that while persons who seek admission are those who are subject to terrible economic and political conditions, and who seek to be freed from impoverished circumstances, that admission does not solve the underlying problems.193 Instead, Pogge says that we cannot protect persons living in such dire circumstances by admittance alone simply because there are too many of such persons, and those which we admit are generally not the worst off.194 Pogge concludes by suggesting that protecting persons who are in dire poverty should consist in financially supporting global institutions which have the alleviation of political and economic suffering as their aim.195 This is one way of arguing, as Miller does, against globally open migration. However, note that in arguing against this, we are not committing ourselves to arguing against global justice or global equality (as Pogge‘s argument demonstrates), but we are simply suggesting that effective action may consist in small scale rather than large scale change (open borders belonging to the latter school). Note also that Miller‘s argument against open migration is based on the unrealistic nature of achieving this; while Pogge‘s argument against it is based on what the real benefits of doing so would be. I am in agreement with Miller, that open migration is one of the problematic implications of Moellendorf‘s position. This would not only be a mistake in light of what can be done, but it would be to misrepresent the principle itself – it would involve setting the principle up to fail. Note that we must uphold theoretical accountability by questioning whether the effect that a certain initiative achieves is consistent with the aims of the ideal. Thus, if our aim is to equalize opportunities and to counter the global problems which impede equalized opportunities, then to allow open migration for those in a position to take advantage of these benefits is to support partially equal opportunities, and it is to provide opportunities for a cross-section of those who require assistance. Thus, while I am sympathetic to Moellendorf‘s vision, I think that Miller is right in his assessment of Moellendorf‘s account. Unfortunately, we can discuss whether or not we should be giving all of our income to charity and whether or not we should live in poverty to provide for those dying in Africa, and we can talk about making sure that the Mozambique child has the chance to become a Swiss banker. But in doing so, we are neglecting and missing the point that people are suffering from injustices, and that our concern should not be with agreeing or disagreeing, but about making practical progress. While we can suggest now that, according to Miller, identical opportunity sets does not offer us a satisfactory account of the ideal, we are still left with the Caneysian conception which suggests that we equivalate opportunities. We move now to outline and examine Miller‘s response to Simon Caney‘s account of the ideal. Recall that Simon Caney, in contrast to Moellendorf and in overcoming the Boxill problem, suggests that a satisfactory account of equal opportunities need not rely on identical opportunities. Instead, Caney demonstrates how a formulation of the ideal can meet these requirements without specifying any opportunities at all. Thus, Caney suggests that we focus on equivalating opportunity sets, by ensuring that they are equal in relation to some commensurable standard, rather than some precise standard. Therefore, Caney suggests that we cash out the ideal when we ensure that all persons of equal talent and willingness have equal opportunities to achieve an equal number of positions of a commensurable standard of living whereby that standard is assessed in relation to a set of capabilities. At least one point to make here is that this account does not rely on a foundational account of equality, but that it instead recognizes equality as functional.196 Miller points out that in the real world equality can be gained and satisfied through equivalent difference.197 Miller agrees with the initial claim made by Caney and says that in the real world, we are not so concerned that the Mozambique in Moellendorf‘s story is disadvantaged when the Swiss child has more chance to be a Swiss banker so long as the Mozambique has more chance to be a Mozambique banker.198 The point here is that there can be some sort of trade off which will easily and fairly keep equality in check without actually identicalising opportunities cross-nationally. Therefore, Miller recognizes the realistic nature of Caney‘s appeal and shows that, in agreement with Caney, equality does not require the kind of identicalisation that Moellendorf defends. In spite of this agreement, it is important to state that Miller is skeptical about whether we can actually equivalate opportunities cross-nationally, and so we go on to examine this next. The Problem with Equivalent Opportunities Building on the Mozambique child and Swiss child difference, Miller uses a second example to illustrate the problem with taking equivalent opportunity sets as representing the global ideal of equal opportunities. Miller asks us to consider two villages that are similar in size and general composition. Suppose, he says, that village A has a football field and that village B has a tennis court, is it then plausible to add that the villages have equal opportunities? Miller‘s answer is that they do because the metric that we use to assess this is ‗access to sporting facilities‘. On the other hand, Miller says that if village A had a school and no church, while village B had a church and no school, we would be struck by a sense of inequality. He says that we view these two things as different because we do not recognize that a lack of one thing can be compensated for by another.199 From this inconsistency between what we deem as justifiably equivalent Miller suggests that we must examine how it is that we are able to adequately judge the football pitch and tennis court case, but not the school and church case. Miller concludes that: The answer must be that we have cultural understandings that tell us that football pitches and tennis courts are naturally substitutable…whereas schools and churches are just different kinds of things, such that you cannot compensate people for not having access to one by giving them access to the other.200 Miller adds that this suggests that in relation to football pitches and tennis courts it is preferable to use a broader grained ‗access to sporting facilities‘, while when we encounter schools and churches it is preferable to adhere to a finer grained account of ‗access to schools‘, which will prevent schools from being substitutable.201 Miller thinks that in the domestic sphere we have a number of specific resources which are singled out as valuable and which are not substitutable; and includes such things as personal security, education, healthcare, and so on.202 However, within such categories there are finer grained points which are not recognized as bearing on the way we view them. For example, he says that while it is important that each person has an opportunity to attend school, whether the school offers French or Italian does not bear on the account.203 Likewise, it might be the case that some persons must train to work, drive, bus, or walk and this should not be seen as an injustice because such differences do not transpire as unjustifiable or problematic.204 In sum, Miller recognizes that we have a clear sense of what differences result in injustices at the domestic level, and that we have a clear sense of which opportunities are necessary to ensure social justice.

1.Arguments Against Equalizing Opportunities Globally
1.1 Global Equality
1.2 John Rawls and Global Justice
1.3 A Realistic Utopia
1.4 Against Equalizing Opportunities Globally: John Rawls and Bernard Boxill
1.5 Possible Responses
1.6 Conclusions of the chapter
2. Recent Attempts at Formulating the Ideal: Darrel Moellendorf and Simon Caney
2.1 Darrel Moellendorf
2.2 Simon Caney
2.3 Moellendorf and Caney
2.4 Conclusions of the chapter
3. New Challenges to the Ideal: David Miller and Gillian Brock
3.1 Section One: David Miller
3.2 Conclusions of the section
3.3 Section two: Gillian Brock
3.4 Brock‘s Conclusion
3.5 Conclusions of the Section
4. Main Conclusion: The Way Forward

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Equalizing Opportunities Globally: Objections, Justifications, and the Way Forward

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