Philosophy Ph.D. Dissertations


Liberal Cosmopolitanism and Economic Justice

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Steven Wall, PhD (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

Fred Miller, PhD (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Jeffrey Moriarty, PhD (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Ellen Paul, PhD (Committee Member)

Fifth Advisor

Rachel Vannatta, PhD (Committee Member)


The goal of this dissertation is to answer two questions: Is global poverty unjust, such that coercive remedies may be imposed to alleviate it? And if so, does it justify global redistribution as a remedy? This dissertation takes up the same task initiated by Thomas Pogge in his 2002 book, World Poverty and Human Rights, in that the theory of justice from which these questions are answered assigns priority to negative duties of non-interference, rather thanpositive duties of assistance. More specifically, the theory of cosmopolitan justice underlying this evaluation is that of natural rights liberalism in the tradition of John Locke and Robert Nozick. According to this theory, global poverty could be unjust only if it was the result of violating individual rights. The first half of the dissertation explores the ways in which Pogge claims poverty is the result of rights violations, "that such poverty is the result of a tainted global history and that the current distribution of global resources violates the right to fair shares," ultimately denying that these ground the injustice of poverty. Instead, I argue that global poverty is unjust because a distribution of resources that contains severe poverty violates the minimal access proviso, a constraint on property rights that takes the deprivation of others to limit the property rights of some. The second half of the dissertation, then, addresses the sorts of remedies that are justified given this injustice. Specifically, I explore why global redistribution is not the appropriate remedy for the deprivation faced by the global poor. Instead, I argue that the remedy should affect the underlying causes of such poverty and, hence, recommend institutional reforms, such as the liberalization of trade and the movement of people across borders.