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One World: The Ethics of Globalization (The Terry Lectures) Paperback – March 11, 2004
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In this brief book, Singer tackles 4 issues raised by globalization: how to deal with greenhouse gas emissions and global warming; whether the WTO and free trade make the world a better place or simply enrich the rich at the expense of the poor while undermining all other human values; when military intervention is justified to prevent or stop genocide or other crimes against humanity; and the scope of the Western world's obligations to the poor and less developed portions of the world. Singer has clearly done his homework, providing a short but extremely useful overview of each problem, often illustrated with telling facts (for example, annual US domestic spending on alcohol is $34 billion, compared to $14 billion spent annually by the US on foreign development aid).
Singer's conclusions are surprisingly moderate -- for example, while condemning the US for refusing to sign the Kyoto Treaty, he recognizes that the Treaty itself would be more effective if *all* nations (not just the developed ones) had quotas (since the quotas of less developed nations would be greater than their output, leading to a stronger market for emissions trading). While concluding that the WTO is undemocratic and places free trade above all other values, he acknowledges that the charge that the poor are worse off under globalization is at least not proven. He takes a stand against moral relativism and concludes that insisting on universal respect for human rights is not a kind of cultural imperialism. At the same time, he recognizes that a legal justification for intervention (atrocities are being committed) is not the same as a moral justification (will intervention produce the best result, all things considered?). Perhaps most interesting, an issue that weaves its way through the entire book is the changing nature of state sovereignty and what it means for a government to be legitimate. I kept wishing that Singer would devote more space to this issue -- perhaps someday he will write a separate book on it (although it may be too theoretical for his practical nature).
"One World" is an exceptionally well-written and clearly argued book. You don't have to be a philosopher yourself to follow Singer; he uses the kind of moral reasoning we all have experience with and he makes his points in plain English. I can't say that I agree with all of his arguments, but he has given me a lot to think about, and I know that I will refer to this book again.
* The ethics of a political position that gives absolute priority to the perceived short-term interests of the citizens of one's own country (particularly issues of poverty and environmental protection) - mainly in the Chapters "One Atmosphere" and "One Community", and ending (in "A Better World?") with a brief discussion of issues and alternatives for a better solution to the governance of a single world;
* An ethical critique of the World Trade Organization's defence against four key charges - in the Chapter "One Economy";
* A similar critique of the arguments advanced by global corporations for trading with dictatorial regimes - also in the Chapter "One Economy"; and
* An examination of the basis of international law, in particular the ethical basis for military intervention in another country - in the Chapter "One Law".
A notable feature of the book is the wealth of factual detail that Singer brings to underpin his case. Further, he avoids the trap of mere utopianism by the rigour and practicality of his arguments, while insisting on the importance of the ethical dimension in resolving the issues.
The care with which he lays out his arguments will provide food for thought for both sides of the divide about globalization, while his use of ethics as a touchstone highlights the sad fact that few current global policies, including the Iraq intervention, are ethically defensible.
My reservation is with the book's safely liberal framework. When all is said and done, Singer's prescriptions raise no issues beyond those of market reforms (reform of WTO), greater world democracy, and more generous foreign aid. In short, there is nothing there that the liberal wing of the Democratic party could not at least pay lip service to. Nowhere does his work suggest that the barriers confronting a more humane and sustainable planet are structural and non-negotiable, that wealth and power may have to be seriously redistributed, or that the problems may be more systemic than piece-meal. I don't fault him for not writing a work on political economy where these issues could be thematically addressed; I do fault the book overall for structuring its discussion around these tacit and constricting assumptions. For a thinker who has fearlessly exposed himself to insult and ridicule by championing the rights of all of Earth's creatures, I know this is a sincere work. Still, I have the impression that One World could have been written by a hundred ethicists much less distinguished than the good professor. All in all, the book is hardly an extention of his other ground-breaking work, and, in that sense, amounts to a disappointment. For those wishing a more challenging ethical approach to globalization from a philosopher of similar stature, check out Ted Honderich's After the Terror.