Thomas Pogge (1953 – ) is a German philosopher, that has been pushing forward the ideas of global justice and equality. We decided to talk about him because he has a very radical idea of justice, that makes him a philosopher of human rights. He defends that the economic and social order have enshrined in it justice and human rights, and while these ideas are not functioning, the world is unjust. He has a highly moral conception of justice, in which developed nations, and its citizens, are responsible and should be accountable for the millions of people who are touched by poverty and unequal opportunities, because this state of affairs is morally wrong. Much in line with the thoughts of the American philosopher Peter Unger, who defends that richer countries have a moral obligation to donate as much money as possible to charities in order to relieve poverty and avoid millions of deaths, Pogge argues that we (people in developed nations) are all responsible for the poverty of the world, because we know it exists and choose to ignore it. His book World Poverty and Human Rights: Cosmopolitan Responsibilities and Reforms (2002) is extremely controversial but also an excellent food-for-thought.
As Pogge explains, “Never has poverty been so easily avoidable”, yet, we fail to avoid it. As a global community, as world citizens, we are thus all guilty of violating human rights, and not only States or big companies. Therefore, we should all be held accountable. Although this is a very interesting approach, it gives maybe too much credit to the role that citizens and common people should play in the international arena. His ideas base themselves on the presumption that the civil society can organize itself to the point of helping developing countries, and that citizens do have an influence. This is not that self-evident knowing the power of governments and corporations.
Nevertheless, Pogge’s idea is interesting since it calls us to review our most basic obligations, such as the respect of human dignity.
If you have the patience to read it, here is a very interesting article by Thomas Pogge that raises some important questions about our society and the role of human rights (give it a try, it’s only 3 pages long 😉 )