Justice Everywhere

a blog about justice in public affairs

Category: Governance (Page 1 of 2)

Announcement – New Issue of Global Justice: Theory Practice Rhetoric

The editors of Global Justice: Theory Practice Rhetoric are pleased to announce the publication of the second re-launch issue of the journal: volume 9, issue 1.

The issue is devoted to the topic of “Global Justice and Non-Domination” and features the following original articles:

The whole issue, with all articles and reviews, can be freely accessed at Volume 9, Issue 1.

For more information about the journal, please see the journal homepage.

A randomly selected chamber? Exploring some challenges

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "chamber of representatives"

In reaction to the contemporary crisis of electoral democracy (marked by decreasing turnouts to elections, marginal party affiliation and general distrust towards politicians), there is a growing interest (from scholars, activists and politicians) in the idea of using random selection for selecting representatives, as was the case in ancient Greece and several Italian Republics in the Middle Ages.

Random selection cannot replace elections altogether. Despite all their shortcomings, elections are a very important democratic tool, in particular because they offer a space for wide participation to self-government, whereas active participation through random selection is limited to a very small section of the population. What is more, randomly selected representatives are not accountable to a constituency. This can have interesting effects in shifting decisions from the preferences of the median voter and reducing the short-termism inherent to elections. Yet it also dangerously impairs legitimacy if a government is not accountable.

For these reasons, the most plausible idea is to have only one chamber of representatives selected by lot (the other and the government remaining elected). What I want to do in this post is to identify the main challenges that such proposal faces. And I count on you to tell me whether you think that there are decisive or not, and if there are other important challenges that I’ve failed to consider.

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Reminder – Call for Papers: Labour Market Injustice Workshop

Newcastle University & Durham University, 14-15 December 2016

Labour market injustice is a pressing problem both domestically and globally. None the less, there continues to be considerable disagreement about how to understand and locate the moral concerns involved. Many commentators understand labour market injustice in interactional terms, viewing it as a problem with the wage or contract terms employers offer their workers. But, there is also an emerging trend towards thinking about it in more structural terms. One such thread involves conceptualising labour market injustices as systemic problems, such as understanding exploitation or discrimination as group-to-group phenomena. Another thread involves articulating proposals to prevent labour market injustices through institutional and policy level responses.

This workshop will operate as a detailed discussion of a set of works-in-progress that consider these emerging angles on (domestic and global) labour market injustice. We invite submissions grounded in any area of political theory, including both applied work and more theoretical or methodological contributions, and also papers that consider the intersection with importantly related disciplines, such as law and economics. Topics may include, but are not limited to, areas such as:

  • Labour rights
  • Discrimination
  • Work-life balance
  • Business organisation
  • Supply chains
  • Brain-drain
  • Exploitation

Confirmed participants

  • Anca Gheaus (University Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona)
  • Martin O’Neill (University of York)

Workshop Organisers

  • Elizabeth Kahn (Durham University)
  • Tom Parr (University of Essex)
  • Andrew Walton (Newcastle University)

Submissions

Abstracts of up to 500 words, accompanied by contact details and institutional affiliation, should be sent to andrew.walton@ncl.ac.uk by 30th September 2016.  We will notify accepted papers by 14th October.

For further information, please contact andrew.walton@ncl.ac.uk, tparr@essex.ac.uk, or elizabeth.kahn@durham.ac.uk

Call for Papers: Labour Market Injustice Workshop

Newcastle University & Durham University, 14-15 December 2016

Labour market injustice is a pressing problem both domestically and globally. None the less, there continues to be considerable disagreement about how to understand and locate the moral concerns involved. Many commentators understand labour market injustice in interactional terms, viewing it as a problem with the wage or contract terms employers offer their workers. But, there is also an emerging trend towards thinking about it in more structural terms. One such thread involves conceptualising labour market injustices as systemic problems, such as understanding exploitation or discrimination as group-to-group phenomena. Another thread involves articulating proposals to prevent labour market injustices through institutional and policy level responses.

This workshop will operate as a detailed discussion of a set of works-in-progress that consider these emerging angles on (domestic and global) labour market injustice. We invite submissions grounded in any area of political theory, including both applied work and more theoretical or methodological contributions, and also papers that consider the intersection with importantly related disciplines, such as law and economics. Topics may include, but are not limited to, areas such as:

  • Labour rights
  • Discrimination
  • Work-life balance
  • Business organisation
  • Supply chains
  • Brain-drain
  • Exploitation

Confirmed participants

  • Anca Gheaus (University Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona)
  • Martin O’Neill (University of York)

Workshop Organisers

  • Elizabeth Kahn (Durham University)
  • Tom Parr (University of Essex)
  • Andrew Walton (Newcastle University)

Submissions

Abstracts of up to 500 words, accompanied by contact details and institutional affiliation, should be sent to andrew.walton@ncl.ac.uk by 30th September 2016.  We will notify accepted papers by 14th October.

For further information, please contact andrew.walton@ncl.ac.uk, tparr@essex.ac.uk, or elizabeth.kahn@durham.ac.uk

Interview: Peter Dietsch on Catching Capital

Taxation is amongst the most hotly debated and politically contentious issues of the twenty-first century.  It has long been an important component of state policy for funding public services and managing inequalities.  Recently, it has increasingly been under the spotlight in virtue of international concerns – worries about multi-national companies shifting profits to low-tax jurisdictions and wealthy indDietschividuals exploiting tax loopholes, often to the effect of reducing state tax revenues.  Such realities raise important questions about the ethics of taxation in a globalised era and have been the focus of much work by Université de Montreal philosopher Peter Dietsch across his work in The Journal of Political Philosophy, Review of International Studies, Moral Philosophy and Politics, Ethical Perspectives, and the volume Global Tax Governance – What is Wrong With It and How to Fix It (co-edited with Thomas Rixen). In 2015, Peter published a book – Catching Capital: The Ethics of Tax Competition – on these issues and, when the opportunity presented itself, we took the chance to interview Peter about this work and heard some of his interesting reflections on the subject:

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Are financial markets – markets?

Philippine-stock-market-board

(source: wikimedia)

What a weird question, you may think. But consider:

  • In textbook markets, what is traded are products that are supposedly useful to customers. What is traded in many financial markets are highly artificial contractual arrangements that are several layers away from what happens in the real economy.
  • In textbook markets, participants are liable to go bankrupt if they overspend. In financial markets, some market participants know that they are too big to fail, creating problems of “moral hazard.”
  • In textbook markets, participants are expected to inform themselves about the products they trade. At least in some financial markets, what matters are not the “fundamentals” (e.g. the economic success of a company the shares of which are traded), but what other participants do. Many participants try to make profits by outrunning market movements or “sentiments”; this can lead to large swings, in disconnect from fundamentals

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Criminal (in)justice and social contribution

The latest figures show that the proven reoffending rate for adult ‘offenders’ released from custody between April 2013 and March 2014 was 45.8%, with those who served sentences of less than 12 months having reoffended at a rate of 59.8% (Ministry of Justice, 2016). These kinds of statistics mean that increased attention has been directed towards understanding the reasons why people stop offending – largely in the hope that this evidence will support the design of reoffending-reducing reforms (see, e.g., the Discovering Desistance project). Another recent Ministry of Justice report brings together much of this research in its compilation of a list of ‘desistance factors’ in response to the question: What helps individuals desist from crime? (‘Transforming Rehabilitation’, 2014)

MarkoLovric at Pixabay (CC0 Public Domain)

MarkoLovric at Pixabay (CC0 Public Domain)

Two of these factors are of particular interest, given my purposes here: (i) ‘having something to give to others’ and (ii) ‘being believed in’ (see below for a brief account of each, respectively; and see Table 2.2 for the full list).

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Sacrificed for hope?

Sacrificed for hope?

Economic transition and intergenerational justice

« Poverty and oppression are here, and they will not

be alleviated by the possibility of a better future.”

Adam Przeworski

Suppose you believe that the nationalization of the means of production is necessary for the achievement of justice. Suppose, besides, that your political party enjoys enough popular support (an absolute majority) for this radical reform. Yet you know from experiences in other countries that such radical reforms engender an economic crisis, with higher unemployment and lower incomes. What you do not know is how the economy is going to fare in the future and how long the crisis can last.

These are a lot of assumptions, certainly, but please accept them for the sake of the argument. What I am asking you is to put yourselves into the shoes of western European socialist leaders from the first half of the 20th century. They faced both a strategic and an ethical dilemma.

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Two arguments on Scottish Independence, one for and one against

I was not personally affected by the vote for Scottish independence, but like many political junkies, I was very much interested. Though it wasn’t merely intellectual curiosity that drove me to follow it: the vote was a unique and precedential event on the stage of global politics that may well have implications beyond the Kingdom-that-is-for-now-still-United. Among my British friends, there was a split between those were tentatively relieved and those were tentatively disappointed that Scotland did not, in fact, secede yet all of them had a hard time deciding. I believe this is partly because we don’t have good frameworks to think through issues of boundaries and succession, as the old political ideologies (like imperialism and nationalism) are losing their grip. Liberalism and democracy are typically perceived to have no say on questions of boundaries and membership, and that’s a big problem for anyone who believes in individual rights and democracy. With this kind of motivation in mind, I’d like to briefly present two arguments, neither conclusive, that were not featured prominently in the debate about Scottish independence – one for, one against.

What reasons do people give for and against Scottish independence? To put it very crudely, the Yes argument was mostly nationalistic and the No argument commonly economic (which means it was about material welfare). Thus, the Yes people said that Scots are a nation and therefore deserve to have political independence – it is their right to control their own collective affairs. The No people said that an independent Scotland will either do worse than it is doing now or terribly bad, with all sorts of catastrophic scenarios flying around. Of course, the Yes people have responded by saying that independence would not have such dire consequences and may even have some economic benefits but their argument was still, for the most part, about national self-determination.

That brings me to one argument in favor of Yes. It seems important to have a living example of a nation achieving independence via a vote. It’s an historical opportunity to witness a nation gain statehood by ballots, not bullets and poke a hole in the generalization that independence is gained with blood and tears or not at all. Some political leaders worried that other national minorities looked to the vote with thoughts of their own national aspirations. If the vote succeeded, the thought went, such aspirations would be strengthened and that would lead to instability. But it seems to me that the opposite is true: such a peaceful campaign is a remarkable example of the potential of discursive and non-violent means for achieving political goals, which might encourage minorities to pursue similar non-violent means in the quest for their political autonomy. That wouldn’t be the cause of any ensuing instability, but a much better way of addressing the already existing tensions, which is a euphemism for the fact that many national minorities suffer discrimination, mistreatment and oppression. If you value democracy, you want to see it succeed where much blood has been shed before: in the struggle for political independence.

This leads us to the problem with the Yes argument. That the conversation has been couched mostly in nationalistic terms is, I believe, a source of concern. For various reasons I can’t enumerate here I am very skeptical about the idea of nationalism in general and about nationalism as a basis for political independence in particular. One troubling aspect of nationalism is that the idea that nations should have their own states and states should be nation-states forces people to choose. Why can’t someone be both Scottish and British? If nations are to have their own state, each state should have a clear nation. If there’s a nation that doesn’t have a state – either it should have its own state, or live as a minority in a state that isn’t its own.

More importantly, I think that there is a potentially better argument for the Yes campaign that wasn’t as prominent in this discussion. That is the democratic aspect: would a new independent state improve the Scottish people’s ability to affect the matters the concern their own lives? Some Yes people have made that argument, usually within the nationalistic framework: as a nation, the Scots will be in a position to manage their own life. But I’m not interested in the Scots as a nation, but in Scots (and the English, and all other affected parties) as individuals. Would it improve individuals’ democratic standings? Will they have more say in decisions that impact their lives? I’m not sure, and I haven’t heard many people make a persuasive argument either way. Some Yes people think that an independent Scotland would result in an improvement in democracy because there are differences in preferences, generally speaking, between the population of Scotland and the rest of the UK: Scots tend to support more social policies, such as governmental funding of education and healthcare than the policies of the UK government. Therefore, an independent Scotland would reflect better the preferences of most Scots while the remaining citizens of the UK would have policies that reflect their preferences.

This might be true. However, there are various other issues that complicate the story. Will an independent government in Scotland be sufficiently strong to have its own policies in the face of pressures from international markets and a strong neighbor? For example, if the now independent Scotland attempts to regulate labour standards more rigorously will they be able to enforce it given the competition with their southern neighbors or will they have to end up complying with the standards of the Westminster government only that now it’ll be a much more conservative government in which they will have no say?

These are empirical questions that are hard to answer, but to my knowledge they have not been the focus of empirical study in recent years. Partly, that’s because the kind of democratic considerations I’m raising here have not been prevalent in discussion on boundaries and succession, though I think they should be.

In defence of a constitution for the UK

Magna Carta Memorial, by Karnaphuli / CC BY-NC 2.0
In honour of the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, the United Kingdom is presently considering whether to adopt a written constitution.  Of course, the UK has various legal documents that set rules and precedents for government and legislation.  There is a Ministerial Code that outlines the duties of ministers and a Human Rights Act that stipulates various rights and freedoms to be upheld.  But it does not have a single, formal, codified document encapsulating the essence and dimensions of all these segments.  In this post, I outline two reasons in favour of the UK adopting such a constitution.
1) A Constitutional Code, which would outline essential elements and principles of government, but not be legally binding.
2) A Constitutional Consolidation Act, which would bring together the various segments of existing common law and parliamentary practice.
3) A Written Constitution, which would be a legally binding statement of basic UK law, democratic procedure, and the relationship between state and citizen.
 
What I have in mind to defend is a version of 3 not dissimilar to the draft of this option in the Select Committee Report.  I think there would be value to the UK adopting a document which details certain core existent and aspirational principles of governance – “liberty, equality, tolerance, and the rule of law” are the draft’s specification (on p.285) – and delineates their manifestation in various rules – such as the rights to life, security, and a fair trial of citizens.  This change would replace the existing patchwork of acts of parliament, legal texts, and conventions through which the UK now operates with a clearer focal point containing the essential rules of state and the principles on which they are based.
One benefit of doing so is that it would make these structures easier for citizens to find and comprehend.  Andrew Williams persuasively argues that justice can make only demands that fall within the epistemic capabilities of citizens.  Individuals must be able to know what the rules require and whether they are being observed, because it respects them as citizens to put this information within their reach and allows them assurance that others are complying.  Arguably the current UK structures fall outside this requirement.  They can be difficult even for legal practitioners to master.  But, at any rate, it seems reasonable to think that a tighter, collated outline of the rules would help meet this goal better.
Another benefit would be that it would provide a clearer mandate for a system of judicial review.  Some worry that adopting a constitution would allow (unelected) judges a political role in setting the rules of society.  Given that UK judges already have power to overrule legislation under the Human Rights Act, it is not clear that adopting a constitution is any more liable to this objection than the status quo.  But, regardless, as Ronald Dworkin argues, there is value in judges having this mandate if it protects certain principles and rights we deem important, such as those mentioned above.  And while some suggest that the British unwritten constitutional model has been good at protecting freedom over time, the evidence is that independent courts operating with safeguarded statutes have the stronger record in protecting human rights, especially those of minorities.  Moreover, offering judges a tighter, collated outline of the relevant principles and rights seems, if anything, likely to improve the viability of this task.  It would help distinguish these cases from instances of legislation more concerned with improving general welfare, thereby establishing a clearer domain and set of parameters within which their rulings must operate.
One important question asked about the project of adopting a constitution is whether there is a clear objective in doing so.  I have some (perhaps overly optimistic) hope that the process could help the UK clarify what truly follows from some of its foundational values – that equality requires far more in terms of social and economic rights than our existing structures offer, for example.  But, whatever else, I do think that bringing principles and current rules into sharper focus and alignment would set the tone and motion for a better political climate in the senses described above.  That, I believe, would be a worthy objective.

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