This paper addresses the debate on global economic distributive justice through the lens of contemporary international relations theory, reviewing works by three renowned cosmopolitan theorists: Charles Beitz, Martha Nussbaum and Thomas Pogge.
The paper maps the moral principles that have been proposed by these authors for a discussion of the present international economic order, and critically assesses the consequences that their application could have for the reform of actually existing institutions. The three authors are compared according to their definitions of the hypothetical original conditions of global justice, the rules proposed to satisfy fairness principles in global institutions, the prescriptions to promote a cosmopolitan transformation of the world and the role rich and poor states should perform within these schemes. By and large, all three authors agree on the philosophical premises that justify world economic re-distribution, and acknowledge the necessity of building global authorities with limited powers to promote cosmopolitan transformations. Simultaneously, all three fall short of adequately critiquing the political mechanisms under which existing global economic institutions operate, and of presenting a precise plan that could promote a cosmopolitan agenda in the immediate future. This paper, then, suggests that cosmopolitans lack a theory of the state.
Furthermore, critical liberal theory would gain in substance if its defendants took into consideration some empirical findings on political economy and historical analyses in the field of development studies.