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The Causes of World Poverty

Some Reflections on Thomas Pogge’s Analysis

Luigi Caranti

While global poverty is the key moral problem of our times, social scientists are far from reaching a consensus on the causes of this disaster and philosophers disagree on the related responsibilities. One important contribution toward an enlarged understanding is offered by Thomas Pogge in World Poverty and Human Rights (2008). The present paper discusses critically Pogge's contribution and attempts to distinguish the valuable intuitions from the unwarranted conclusions that could be derived from them and that Pogge himself suggests at times. Foremost among these is the thesis that minor changes of the present global order would suffice to remove most world poverty. While it is sceptical about this strong conclusion, the paper confirms, unlike preceding discussions of World Poverty and Human Rights (Patten 2005: 19-27; Cruft 2005: 29-37; Anwander 2005: 39-45), the book's basic philosophical conclusion, namely, that affluent individuals and governments hold negative obligations toward the global poor.