John Rawls, proponent of the Liberal Nationalist tradition in international ethics, suggests that liberal societies have a duty of assistance toward burdened societies. As a principle, the duty of assistance is not adequate in terms of distributive justice as described by Michael Blake in his “Distributive Justice, Coercion, and Autonomy.”
The duty of assistance stems from Rawls’ Law of Peoples as a means of creating a more just society. The basic premise is that those who have access to more materials and economic resources should provide resource assistance to burdened societies. A burdened society is a failed community, lacking the ability to foster growth, sustain successful institutions, or produce capital of any kind. The duty to assist pertains to other communities who have success in these areas and are capable of providing material and economic resources to these burdened societies. The reasons why this principle may seem adequate as a means of distributive justices are because of the conditions Rawls attaches to this assistance.
The first condition is that once these burdened societies have had assistance to the point where they can create and sustain their own liberal political institutions or decent hierarchies (where leaders must consult with the people they rule over even if the leaders do no always adhere to the people’s preferences), liberal states no longer have a duty to assist. In this way, liberal societies are not labeled as perpetual givers or are taken advantage of by the numbers of burdened societies. This condition seems fair in that liberal societies are able to provide assistance up to a point and that previously burdened societies are not forever suckling from other societies.
Liberal societies can also reduce the amount they assist burdened societies if the burdened societies are ineffectively using the resources or have corrupt individuals receiving the assistance and not reforming their political infrastructure. The ability to withdraw assistance allows liberal societies to guide development and progress in a way they see fit.
Blake’s argument for distributive justice is that the duty of assistance not be applied at the international level, but rather a humanitarian intervention be taken on by the liberal state. Coercion is present at the domestic level because citizens are forced to live together and thus participate in their society together. But this level of coercion does not exist between states since states are not forced to participate with one another; they only exist in the world together. Existing together and participating together are separate actions. Existing in the same world as another does not mean there is a necessity to interact with another. As this is the case, Blake argues that state sovereignty should be respected within the international system and that no state should be coerced into participating with others and implicitly forcing others to change in order to receive...