Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Bas van der Vossen and Jason Brennan's "In Defense of Openness"

Bas van der Vossen is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Chapman University. He's the author of Debating Humanitarian Intervention, together with Fernando Teson, and has edited the Routledge Handbook of Libertarianism, together with Jason Brennan and David Schmidtz.

Jason Brennan is the Flanagan Family Professor at Georgetown University. He is the author or co-author of nine books, including Against Democracy and When All Else Fails: Resistance, Violence, and State Injustice.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, In Defense of Openness: Why Global Freedom Is the Humane Solution to Global Poverty, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Justifying Human Rights

The first step in the argument is to identify a way of defending productive rights. This section outlines a sufficient condition for justifying human rights. The condition consists of two parts, each of which reflects a strand of the most commonly accepted way of justifying rights: the interest theory of rights.

On this approach, human rights can be justified by demonstrating that they serve certain key and universal human interests, sufficient for holding others to be under a (corresponding) duty. The two parts of the condition track different ways in which rights might serve people’s interests. One is by serving basic and universal interests of right-holders themselves. Thus, a human right to shelter could be justified by showing that it will serve people’s interests in maintaining their health, privacy, and safety, given the significance of these interests and the absence of defeating considerations.

The second is by serving key universal interests of people in society more generally. The right to freedom of speech might be justified by showing how it serves our shared interests in living in a society characterized by free and open debate. Even if the interests of individual speakers would be insufficient for this task (on the first condition), we can justify this right by showing how it serves these shared interests, again given their significance and the absence of defeating considerations.

This second strand reflects the idea that human rights function as parts of a broader international legal system. And we can judge such systems in holistic ways. A justified system of human rights should form a coherent whole, something in which individual rights function in mutually reinforcing ways. If the inclusion of a certain right or set of rights strengthens the overall fabric of the human rights system, then this counts toward the inclusion of that right into the system. If (a) the system of human rights as a whole can be justified, and (b) a certain right or set of rights helps it work better, that is a strong reason for recognizing said right.
There’s an odd disconnect between economists and philosophers on issues of global poverty. Economists both Left and Right generally agree that certain institutions are necessary for prolonged economic growth and to escape from poverty: secure property rights free of the risk of government appropriation, stable government under the rule of law, and open markets. Economists are generally skeptical that foreign aid or global redistribution can do much more than alleviate some of the worst suffering; few think it can end world poverty, and many think aid to countries with extractive regimes makes things worse. Yet, for whatever reason, philosophers seem uninterested in development or institutional economics, and tend to instead advocate doing the exact opposite of what economists advocate.

In chapters 2-6, we argue on both moral and economic grounds that governments around the world should adopt open borders and free trade policies—thus the title In Defense of Openness.

On page 99, in chapter 7, we argue that certain productive economic rights, including A) the right to start a business, B) to make trades with foreigners free of tariffs and protectionism, C) to own productive property, and D) to move to work wherever one pleases, should be considered universal human rights. That is, these are rights that should be recognize and respected by governments everywhere. Our argumentative strategy is very simple: We take the standard kinds of reasons other philosophers use to identify what makes something a human right, and then show that by these pre-existing standards, A-D qualify as human rights even more than the kinds of things other philosophers claim are human rights.
Visit Jason Brennan's website and Bas van der Vossen's website.

--Marshal Zeringue