Accessible Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter October 26, 2016

Advancing Justice by Appealing to Self-Interest: The Case for Charter Cities

Julian F. Müller


The migration debate highlights a crucial shortcoming of non-ideal theory. Non-ideal theory, this essay argues, is in a sense still too ideal. The open border approach to minimal global justice reveals that non-ideal theory is missing the appropriate tools for engaging moral problems that are brought about by a thorough lack of empathy. To remedy this flaw, I conceptualize a two-tier approach to non-ideal theory. The basic idea behind the two-tier approach is adding the toolset of instrumental morality to non-ideal theory. Instrumental morality, I argue, should take center stage whenever standard non-ideal theory fails to accomplish its task. Applying the approach to global justice, the article will make the case for charter cities. The policy of creating charter cities is built on the insight that in a world plagued by limited empathy, justice must be advanced in accordance with and not against the existing interests.


Acemoglu, D. and Robinson, J.A. (2012). Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty (London: Profile Books).Search in Google Scholar

Akakpo, C.E. and Lenard, P.T. (2014). ‘New challenges in immigration theory. An overview’, Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, 17 (5): 493–502.Search in Google Scholar

Beckmann, M. (2011). ‘The social case as a business case: making sense of social entrepreneurship from an ordonomic perspective’, in I. Pies and P. Koslowski (eds.) Corporate Citizenship and New Governance (Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands), pp. 91–115.Search in Google Scholar

Blake, M. (2001). ‘Distributive justice, state coercion, and autonomy’, Philosophy & Public Affairs, 30 (3): 257–296.Search in Google Scholar

Buchanan, J.M. (2000/1975). The Limits of Liberty: Between Anarchy and Leviathan (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund).Search in Google Scholar

Carens, J.H. (1987). ‘Aliens and citizens. The case for open borders’, The Review of Politics, 49 (02): 251–273.Search in Google Scholar

Carens, J.H. (1996). ‘Realistic and idealistic approaches to the ethics of migration’, International Migration Review, 30 (1): 156–170.Search in Google Scholar

Clemens, M.A. (2011). ‘Economics and emigration. Trillion-dollar bills on the sidewalk?’, Journal of Economic Perspectives, 25 (3): 83–106.Search in Google Scholar

Easterly, W.R. (2006). The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good (New York: Penguin Press).Search in Google Scholar

Farrelly, C. (2007). ‘Justice in ideal theory. A refutation’, Political Studies, 55 (4): 844–864.Search in Google Scholar

Ferracioli, L. and Lora, P. de (2015). ‘Primum nocere. Medical brain drain and the duty to stay’, The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, 40 (5): 601–619.Search in Google Scholar

Freiman, C. (2013). ‘Cosmopolitanism within borders. On behalf of charter cities’, Journal of Applied Philosophy, 30 (1): 40–52.Search in Google Scholar

Fuller, B., and Romer, P. (2012). ‘Success and the city. How charter cities could transform the developing world’, Macdonald-Laurier Institute, (accessed 24th June 2016)Search in Google Scholar

Gilabert, P. and Lawford-Smith, H. (2012). ‘Political feasibility. A conceptual exploration’, Political Studies, 60 (4): 809–825.Search in Google Scholar

Hamlin, A. and Stemplowska, Z. (2012). ‘Theory, ideal theory and the theory of ideals’, Political Studies Review, 10 (1): 48–62.Search in Google Scholar

Hausman, D.M. and McPherson, M.S. (2006). Economic Analysis, Moral Philosophy, and Public Policy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).Search in Google Scholar

Horton, J. (2010). ‘Realism, liberal moralism and a political theory of modus vivendi’, European Journal of Political Theory, 9 (4): 431–448.Search in Google Scholar

Miller, D. (2005). ‘Immigration: The case for limits’, in A.I. Cohen and C.H. Wellman (eds.) Contemporary Debates in Applied Ethics (Oxford: Blackwell), pp. 193–206.Search in Google Scholar

Miller, D. (2015). ‘Justice in immigration’, European Journal of Political Theory, 14 (4): 391–408.Search in Google Scholar

Mills, C.W. (2005). ‘“Ideal theory” as ideology’, Hypatia, 20 (3): 165–183.Search in Google Scholar

Moehler, M. (2014). ‘The scope of instrumental morality’, Philosophical Studies, 167 (2): 431–451.Search in Google Scholar

Narveson, J. (1999). Moral Matters (Peterborough: Broadview Press).Search in Google Scholar

Oberman, K. (2015). ‘Poverty and immigration policy’, American Political Science Review, 109 (02): 239–251.Search in Google Scholar

Peri, G. (2014). ‘Do immigrant workers depress the wages of native workers?’, IZA World of Labor, (accessed 12th September 2016).Search in Google Scholar

Rawls, J. (2001). ‘The law of peoples’, in J. Rawls (ed.) Collected Papers (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press), pp. 529–64.Search in Google Scholar

Sagar, R. (2016). ‘Are charter cities legitimate?’, Journal of Political Philosophy, online first.Search in Google Scholar

Schmidtz, D. (2011). ‘Nonideal theory. What it is and what it needs to be’, Ethics, 121 (4): 772–796.Search in Google Scholar

Seglow, J. (2005). ‘The ethics of immigration’, Political Studies Review, 3 (3): 317–334.Search in Google Scholar

Sen, A. (2006). ‘What do we want from a theory of justice?’, Journal of Philosophy, 103 (5): 215–238.Search in Google Scholar

Simmons, A.J. (2010). ‘Ideal and nonideal theory’, Philosophy & Public Affairs, 38 (1): 5–36.Search in Google Scholar

Singer, P. (2011). Practical Ethics (New York: Cambridge University Press).Search in Google Scholar

UNHCR (2014). ‘UNHCR global trends. Forced displacement in 2014’, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, (accessed 12th September 2016).Search in Google Scholar

Valentini, L. (2012). ‘Ideal vs. non-ideal theory. A conceptual map’, Philosophy Compass, 7 (9): 654–664.Search in Google Scholar

Walzer, M. (1983). Spheres of Justice: A Defense of Pluralism and Equality (New York: Basic Books).Search in Google Scholar

Wellman, C.H. (2008). ‘Immigration and freedom of association’, Ethics, 119 (1): 109–141.Search in Google Scholar

Wiens, D. (2012). ‘Prescribing institutions without ideal theory’, Journal of Political Philosophy, 20 (1): 45–70.Search in Google Scholar

Published Online: 2016-10-26
Published in Print: 2016-11-1

©2016 by De Gruyter