Some links on how egalitarian left moral and political philosophers concerned with Third World poverty and under development can find themselves in agreement with free market libertarians.
Peter Singer, a leading moral philosopher committed to strong egalitarianism, in conversation with Bill Easterly at bloggingheads.tv.
Easterly is a passionate advocate of Third World development and a passionate critic of state and celebrity based aid politics. A Professor of Economics at NYU, who runs the blog AIDWATCH: just asking that aid benefit the poor.
Singer and Easterly agree on the following points: the moral obligation of individuals to help the poor, the wasteful of many aid organisations and the importance of getting information about organisations before donating (details of useful websites given), wastefulness of state aid when as often happens it is designed to help a constituency in domestic politics rather than the Third World poor.
Also listen to Thomas Pogge being interviewed by Alan Saunders, or read the transcript at ABC’s The Philosopher’s Zone, ‘The Right to Property and the Right to Health’.
Pogge has a very different philosophical foundation from that of Singer. Singer is a Utilitarian, Pogge is a follower of Rawlsian reasoning from first principles about justice. Like Singer, he is deeply concerned with equality between nations as well as within nations. Though definitely not an advocate of libertarian (i.e. free market individualistic limited government liberalism), Pogge points out that there is an mportant areas of agreement between egalitarians and libertarians, on issues concerning the Third World poor:
Property rights and patent laws.
Patent laws which prevent all physical production of objects which are covered in very broad interpretations of intellectual property conflicts with basic property rights which have at their centre ownership and control of physical possessions. The importance for the Third World here is that patent laws make it extremely difficult for Third World pharmaceutical producers to manufacture medicine which has any resemblance, however accidental, or secondary, with already patented medical product. The same issue applies to developing new seed strain.
As Pogge points out this only applies to the position that some libertarians take on property rights, but he is certainly right to point out that there is a form of free market libertarianism which opposes broad and strict intellectual property rights. This often comes up in discussion software and computerised products. Two ‘libertarian’ points come up: it stifles innovation and interferes with property rights if companies can prevent others from incorporating existing knowledge into new products; innovation is an interactive discovery process involving many people and this should not be covered over by IP laws which presume that one person or company is solely responsible for innovation. On this version of libertarianism, complete reproduction of someone else’s product is wrong but no use of knowledge incorporated into that product.