Three Images of Trade: On the Place of Trade in a Theory of Global Justice

Mathias Risse 1  and Gabriel Wollner 2
  • 1 Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University, 79 JFK St, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
  • 2 London School of Economics
Mathias Risse and Gabriel Wollner

Abstract

Economic theory teaches that it is in every country’s interest to trade. Trade is a voluntary activity among consenting parties. On this view, considerations of justice have little bearing on trade, and political philosophers concerned with global justice should stay largely silent on trade. According to a very different view that has recently gained prominence, international trade can only occur before the background of an international market reliance practice shaped by states. Trade is a shared activity among states, and all participating states have in principle equal claims to gains from trade. Trade then becomes a central topic for political philosophers. Both views are problematic. A third view about the role of trade in a theory of global justice is then presented, which gives pride of place to a (non-Marxian) notion of exploitation. The other two views should be abandoned.

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Moral Philosophy and Politics is an international, peer-reviewed journal for original philosophical articles on issues of public relevance. Of particular interest to the journal are the philosophical assessment of policy and its normative basis, analyses of the philosophical underpinnings or implications of political debate and reflection on the justice or injustice of the social and political structures which regulate human action.

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