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The Morality of State Borders

by Nine Birk, Cara.

Abstract (Summary)
Traditional theories of domestic distributive justice take two claims for granted. (1) State territorial borders place legitimate limits on the scope of obligations of distributive justice, i.e., there is an obligation to distribute goods within our territory but not beyond our territory. (2) States have a need for and a legitimate claim to exclusive territorial jurisdiction. Given increasing globalization and the recent prominence of international theories of distributive justice, it is now obvious that these two claims cannot be taken for granted. Theories of distributive justice must explain how and why state borders affect distributive obligations. In this dissertation I argue that state borders serve fundamental values in a liberal theory of justice. As such, state borders are morally relevant to a theory of justice. I argue for a Lockean theory of territory; state territory is justified because it serves four fundamental Lockean values of need, efficiency, the labor theory of desert, and selfdetermination. State borders mark the boundaries of a state’s autonomous territory. State territory, and the borders that mark the boundaries of that territory, are valuable in a liberal theory of justice. This conclusion has implications for the answer to the question: what is owed to foreigners? The fundamental values served by the state’s right to territory also support the state’s right to control the natural resources within its territory and the state’s right to control benefits that flow from the resources within the territory. This means that the state has a right to distribute the benefits from the resources within its territory and (to some degree) to exclude foreigners from these benefits. 8
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School:The University of Arizona

School Location:USA - Arizona

Source Type:Master's Thesis

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