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I may have too much access to philosophical materials to be considered eligible for this site, but I have not yet found a satisfactory answer to the following question:

Why should an undemocratic country's sovereignty be accorded any moral significance? In other words, if a country is ruled without the consent of its governed, why should the fact that it is a separate country (as opposed to other political form) affect our moral calculus?

January 16, 2006

Response from Thomas Pogge on January 21, 2006

With respect to some aspects of sovereignty, there may be a good reason. The fact that a country is ruled undemocratically is not sufficient justification for conquering and annexing it.

With respect to other aspects, there is no good reason. We recognize dictators as entitled to sell us their country's natural resources, because we benefit from being able to buy them. (Imagine what crude oil would cost if we could buy it only from democracies!) We pay the dictator; he conveniently uses it to buy from us the weapons he needs to stay in power and invests the rest in our economy (under his own name, of course, or that of his family members). This practice is a clear-cut injustice perpetrated by the dictator in conjunction with rich-country banks, corporations and governments, against the populations of the countries in question. Their resources are taken without their consent and the proceeds are used to keep them oppressed. This is part of the explanation of the so-called resource curse (or Dutch disease) which has hurt the populations of resource-rich poor countries so severely.


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