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Insights SECURE SYNOPSIS: 01 SEPTEMBER 2017


SECURE SYNOPSIS: 01 SEPTEMBER 2017


NOTE: Please remember that following ‘answers’ are NOT ‘model answers’. They are NOT synopsis too if we go by definition of the term. What we are providing is content that both meets demand of the question and at the same time gives you extra points in the form of background information.


 

Topic:  Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India

1) What do you understand by majoritarianism and vigilantism? Discuss critically why these phenomena are on the rise in America and India. (200 Words)

The Hindu

Majoritarianism:

Majoritarianism is a traditional political philosophy or agenda that asserts that a majority (sometimes categorized by religion, language, social class, or some other identifying factor) of the population is entitled to a certain degree of primacy in society, and has the right to make decisions that affect the society.

Majoritarianism is a concept propounded by 18th century European philosophers to alert people to the subliminal dangers of even a seemingly honourable system like democracy. In simple terms, it is a tendency of the majority community to suppress the minority.

John Stuart Mill, the British philosopher used the phrase the “tyranny of the majority” to highlight this repressive urge in his monumental essay “Liberty”: “Like other tyrannies, the tyranny of the majority was at first, and is still vulgarly, held in dread…there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling, against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them…”

Vigilantism:

It a civilian or organization acting in a law enforcement capacity (or in the pursuit of self-perceived justice) without legal authority.

A Vigilant person tries in an unofficial way to prevent crime, or to catch and punish someone who has committed a crime, especially because they do not think that official organizations, such as the police, are controlling crime effectively. Vigilantes usually join together to form groups.

Reasons for rising Majoritarianism and Vigilantism

The main problem was the country was communally-charged and had a permanent religious majority. Even today, roughly 80 percent of the population is Hindu, 14 percent Muslim; Sikhs and Christians are about 2 percent each. Then there were other perpetual majority-minority tussles: Languages and castes, for example. None of these factors were susceptible to change, which is what made majority rule inadvisable for Indian conditions sometimes.

The political parties in India get benefited by dividing people on basis of caste and class politics. The Majoritarianism is generally used as a tool by these parties.

The failure of law and order agencies to deliver their duty within specific time erodes the faith of community. The attacks on minority community by majority groups in some areas of the country leads to the Vigilantism in that particular area.

The personality cult and blind faith too drives the mob psychology towards violent activities that may create threat to the democratic fabric of the nation.

Virtual platforms and social media is another dimension of this issues as it has reduces the physical distance among the communities, making them very easy to come together for the purpose.

The religious agenda many times takes the form of violent vigilantism. The lack of rationality and awareness about the involved issue leads to the blind following by people.

In India especially the efficient judicial work sometimes result into Vigilantism and related activities by people. It is quite obvious that, the prompt grievance redressal mechanism can ensure the majority and minorities’ faith in democracy to large extent.

The tolerance by people can avoid the culture of Majoritarianism and Vigilantism in any society. People must learn to accept the existing difference and take them as a diversity that completes the society in one form or other.


 

Topic:  Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein

2) In its statement of objects and reasons for proposing a new inter-State river water disputes law, the Centre lists out the drawbacks in the prevalent Inter-State River Water Disputes Act of 1956. What are these drawbacks? What are the features of proposed new inter-State river water disputes law? Discuss. (200 Words)

The Hindu

Water in India is governed under three different Acts which are the following:

The Environmental Protection Act (1986), the River Boards Act (1956) and the Inter-State Water Disputes Act (1956).

Interstate River Water Disputes Act – 1956 (IRWD Act) was first enacted on 28th August, 1956 by Indian parliament on the eve of reorganization of states on linguistic basis to resolve the water disputes that would arise in the use, control and distribution of an interstate river or river valley.

Article 262 of the Constitution of India deals with the adjudication of water disputes.

Article 262 (1) Parliament may, by law, provide for the adjudication of any dispute or complaint with respect to the use, distribution or control of the waters of, or in, any inter-State river or river valley.

Article 262 (2) Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, Parliament may, by law, provide that neither the Supreme Court nor any other court shall exercise jurisdiction in respect of any such dispute or complaint as is referred to in clause (1).

Using the powers of Article 262, the Parliament enacted the Interstate River Water Disputes Act, 1956 to resolve the water disputes that would arise in the use, control and distribution of an interstate river or river valley.

Drawbacks of interstate Water Dispute Act, 1956:

  • The Inter State Water Dispute Act, 1956 which provides the legal framework to address such disputes suffers from many drawbacks as it does not fix any time limit for resolving river water disputes.
  • Under this Act, a separate Tribunal has to be established for each Inter State River Water Dispute.
  • Only three out of eight Tribunals have given awards accepted by the States, while Tribunals like Cauvery and Ravi Beas have been in existence for over 26 and 30 years respectively without any award.
  • Delays are on account of no time limit for adjudication by a Tribunal, no upper age limit for the Chairman or the Members, work getting stalled due to occurrence of any vacancy and no time limit for publishing the report of the Tribunal.
  • The River Boards Act 1956, which is supposed to facilitate inter-state collaboration over water resource development, remained a ‘dead letter’ since its enactment.
  • Surface water is controlled by Central Water Commission (CWC) and ground water by Central Ground Water Board of India (CGWB). Both bodies work independently and there is no common forum for common discussion with state governments on water management.

Features of the proposed bill:

  • Bill proposes a Single Standing Tribunal (with multiple benches) instead of existing multiple tribunals, which shall consist of one Chairperson, one Vice-Chairperson and not more than six other Members.
  • While the term of office of the Chairperson is five year or till he attains the age of 70 years, whichever is earlier, the term of office of Vice Chairperson and other member of tribunal shall be co-terminus with the adjudication of the water dispute.
  • Bill also provides for the appointment of Assessors to provide technical support to the tribunal. They shall be appointed from amongst experts serving in the Central Water engineering Service not below the rank of Chief Engineer.
  • The total time period for adjudication of dispute has been fixed at maximum of four and half years. The decision of the Tribunal shall be final and binding with no requirement of publication in the official Gazette.
  • The Bill proposes to introduce mechanism to resolve the dispute amicably by negotiations, through a Dispute Resolution Committee (DRC) to be established by the Central Government consisting of relevant experts, before such dispute is referred to the tribunal.
  • The Bill provides for transparent data collection system at the national level for each river basin and for this purpose, an agency to maintain data-bank and information system shall be appointed or authorized by Central Government.

The Inter-State River Water Disputes (Amendment) Bill, 2017 proposes to streamline the adjudication of inter-state river water disputes and make the present legal and institutional architecture robust.

 


 

Topic:  India and its neighborhood- relations.

3) Should the resolution of recent Doklam issue be celebrated as diplomatic victory by the Indian side against powerful China? Critically comment. (200 Words)

The Hindu

What was Doklam issue?

In June 2017, Doklam became the site of a stand-off between the armed forces of India and China following an attempt by China to extend a road from Yadong further southward on the Doklam plateau. Unlike China and Bhutan, India does not have a claim on Doklam; however, India supports Bhutan’s claim on the territory.

According to the Bhutanese government, China attempted to extend a road that previously terminated at Doklam towards the Bhutan Army camp at Zornpelri near the Jampheri Ridge two km to the south; that ridge, viewed as the border by China but as wholly within Bhutan by both Bhutan and India, extends eastward approaching India’s highly-strategic Siliguri corridor.

On 18 June, Indian troops apparently crossed into the territory in dispute between China and Bhutan in an attempt to prevent the road construction. In a 1949 treaty, Bhutan agreed to let India guide its foreign policy and defence affairs. In 2007, the treaty was superseded by a new friendship treaty that replaced the provision that made it mandatory for Bhutan to take India’s guidance on foreign policy, providing broader sovereignty to Bhutan and not requiring it to obtain India’s permission over arms imports.

The recent resolution should not be taken as a Diplomatic victory, because:

  • It is unclear, yet, whether China will patrol the region, which it claims to have been doing earlier.
  • China’s interest in Doklam is not of recent origin and has a long history. Those on either side of the divide currently claiming victory must, hence, pause to think what the future holds. We must not jump to the conclusion so early.
  • Chinese state that they have halted road building in the disputed Doklam area, while adding that they may reconsider the decision after taking into account ‘different factors’, it shows that, it is willing to wait to implement its decision, but at a time of its choosing when an opportunity exists for a settlement suited to its plans.
  • It has been observed that, the China preferred attrition — a protracted campaign to secure a relative advantage — to forceful intervention.
  • BRICS summit in China in September and the forthcoming 19th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party can be reason of Chinese stepping back from this comparatively small issue with India.
  • China is playing for higher stakes in a globalised world. For instance, on the South China Sea, it has preferred to employ confidence-building measures to deal with the U.S. while awaiting a more opportune moment to assert its claims.
  • The chines policy to opt for more cooperation than confrontation can be the possible reason for this back step taken by China. China is currently seeking to reshape the regional and international order, and is keen to fine-tune its ‘Great Power diplomacy’. It, hence, needs to be seen as preferring peace over conflict. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a potent instrument in this direction, but needs a peaceful environment to succeed.
  • The economics can be another reason for this decision by Chinese government. China needs to redress the economic imbalance between its coastal regions and the hinterland States. One stated objective of the BRI is linking these regions with China’s land neighbours. China’s growth rate is declining, debt levels are dangerously high, and labour is getting more expensive.

Embarking on military engagement outside the country’s borders could aggravate China’s problems. As China is intent on sustained economic growth at one level, and aspiring to be a Great Power at another level, this could prove to be a dampener.


 

Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

4) In your opinion, what lessons governments across the world, including India, have learnt from meltdowns in 1997 and the one that emerged a decade later? In the light of recent events, critically comment. (200 Words)

Livemint

 

The East Asian economic crisis is probably the most important economic event in the region of the past few decades. The great debate on causes is whether the blame should be allocated to domestic policies and practices or to the intrinsic and volatile nature of the global financial system.

Lessons learned from crisis of 1997 are:

  • The export-driven growth strategy of the past can no longer deliver sustainable national growth, with or without capital controls.
  • Countries must continue pursuing sound macroeconomic policies. They need adequate fiscal space and international reserve buffers against future shocks.
  • The region requires greater revenue from tax reforms and better collection to finance infrastructure and social sector needs.
  • Countries need deeper and broader financial systems. Along with the sound banking sectors, they need strong capital markets in local currency bonds.
  • Macro- and micro-prudential policies are critical to maintain financial stability. Cross-border capital flows, domestic credit growth, and asset price inflation should be monitored closely.
  • Asian countries must address climate change risks through both mitigation and adaptation measures. By using smart urban planning, cities should be made more resilient.
  • Human capital development is essential for countries to advance and avoid the middle-income trap. Education systems should equip people with the necessary skills and knowledge to adapt to a rapidly evolving technology and business environment.
  • Regional cooperation can mitigate risks from globalization. The Asian countries have some good examples of economic cooperation such as Asian economic forum. Other countries have a lot to do in order to promote common economic cooperation.

Lessons to be learnt from 2008 financial crisis:

  • There is a need to refine the regulatory framework to avoid distorted incentives.The desires of private sector investors and the actions of the intermediaries were indeed influenced by the regulations they faced.
  • Probably the most widely cited problem to be uncovered is that capital regulations applied to banks encouraged them to store some of the new credit-related products in off-balance sheet vehicles.
  • Secondly, supervisors and regulators need to have the incentives and resources to look hard and deep at possible flaws in the risk management systems of the institutions they oversee.
  • An important third set of lessons relates to how to cope with the outcomes of crises of this new type. Bank resolution and deposit-insurance frameworks need to be strengthened and interagency coordination needs to be more effective. Central banks should remain well-informed and involved in the ongoing analysis of risks of the major financial institutions in their economies.
  • Obsolete tools and operational procedures have been replaced with others that are aimed at fixing the low volumes in interbank markets and getting these markets going again.

Conclusion:

We have learned, in fact re-learned, that while crises may manifest themselves in different ways, with new instruments, in new markets, and sometimes in newly created types of institutional frameworks, one of the items that remains the same is that “incentives” are often at the root of a crisis. There is need to disseminate the new best practices or rule-making throughout the world to foster a more secure global economic and financial environment.

 

 


 

Topic:  Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation

5) In your opinion, what are the lessons that government should learn from recent demonetisation fiasco? Discuss critically. (200 Words)

Livemint

The Indian Express

Introduction :- On 8 November 2016, the Government of India announced the demonetisation of all ₹500 (US$7.80) and ₹1,000 (US$16) banknotes of the Mahatma Gandhi Series. The government claimed that the action would curtail the shadow economy and crack down on the use of illicit and counterfeit cash to fund illegal activity and terrorism. The sudden nature of the announcement—and the prolonged cash shortages in the weeks that followed—created significant disruption throughout the economy, threatening economic output.

Criticism :-

The Indian Supreme Court while hearing one among a slew of cases filed against the sudden demonetisation decision in various courts, observed that it “appears to be carpet bombing and not surgical strike” which government repeatedly claims it to be.

Nobel laureate Indian economist Amartya Sen, severely criticised the demonetisation move calling it a “despotic action” among other things.

Former Senior Vice-President and Chief Economist of the World Bank, Kaushik Basu, called it a ‘major mistake’ and said that the ‘damage’ is likely to be much greater than any possible benefits.

Pronab Sen, former Chief Statistician and Planning Commission of India member, called it a “hollow move” since it did not really address any of the purported goals of tackling black money or fake currency.

Prabhat Patnaik, a former professor of economics at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi called the move ‘witless’ and ‘anti-people’. He criticised the simple way in which black money was assumed as “a hoard of cash”, saying that it would have little effect in eliminating “black activities” while “causing much hardship to common people.”

Noted economist and journalist, T. N. Ninan wrote in the Business Standard that demonetisation ‘looks like a bad idea, badly executed on the basis of some half-baked notions’. Deepak Parekh (Chairman of HDFC) had initially appreciated the decision to ban the ₹ 500 and ₹ 1000 notes, but later said that the move had derailed the economy, and expressed scepticism about its outcome. Industrialist Rajiv Bajaj criticised the demonetisation, saying that not just the execution, but the concept of demonetisation was wrong in itself.

Effects :-

Banking

In the first four days after the announcement of the step, about ₹3 trillion (US$47 billion) in the form of old ₹500 and ₹1,000 banknotes had been deposited in the banking system and about ₹500 billion (US$7.8 billion) had been dispensed via withdrawals from bank accounts, ATMs as well as exchanges over the bank counters.

Human trafficking

Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi and others working to fight human trafficking said that the note ban had led to a huge fall in sex trafficking. Satyarthi said the demonetisation would be effective in combating exploitation of children as well as corruption and would be a great obstacle to traffickers. However, 2 months later he expressed his disappointment on Rs 2000 notes being pushed into human trafficking in absence of other concrete steps.

Radical groups

The Demonetisation has badly hit Maoist and Naxalites as well. The surrender rate has reached its highest since the demonetisation is announced. It is said that the money these organisations have collected over the years have left with no value and it has caused them to reach to this decision

Hawala

Mumbai Police reported a setback to Hawala operations. Hawala dealers in Kerala were also affected. The Jammu and Kashmir Police reported the effect of demonetisation on hawala transactions of separatists.

Railways

As of November 2016, Indian Railways did not have the option to make payment with cards at the counters. After the demonetisation move, the government announced to make card payment options available at railway counters in the country.

Cash shortage

The scarcity of cash due to demonetisation led to chaos, and most people holding old banknotes faced difficulties exchanging them due to endless queues outside banks and ATMs across India, which became a daily routine for millions of people waiting to deposit or exchange the ₹500 and ₹1000 banknotes since 9 November.

Deaths

Several people were reported to have died from standing in queues for hours to exchange their old banknotes. Deaths were also attributed to lack of medical help due to refusal of old banknotes by hospitals.

Agriculture

Transactions in the Indian agriculture sector are heavily dependent on cash and were adversely affected by the demonetisation of ₹500 and ₹1,000 banknotes. Due to scarcity of the new banknotes, many farmers have insufficient cash to purchase seeds, fertilisers and pesticides needed for the plantation of rabi crops usually sown around mid-November.

Business

By the second week after demonetisation of ₹500 and ₹1,000 banknotes, cigarette sales across India witnessed a fall of 30–40%, while E-commerce companies saw up to a 30% decline in cash on delivery (COD) orders.

Digital transactions

Several e-commerce companies hailed the demonetisation decision as an impetus to an increase in digital payments, hoping that it would lead to a decline in COD returns which could cut down their costs.

Drop in industrial output

There was a reduction in industrial output as industries were hit by the cash crisis. The Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to 46.7 in November from 54.5 in October, recording its sharpest reduction in three years.

Job losses

There was a loss of jobs due to demonetisation, particularly in the unorganised and informal sector and in small enterprises. Labour union jobs were crashed.

However there is now ample proof that the grand demonetisation gamble has failed to meet its primary objective.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has finally released numbers that show how most of the currency notes that were cancelled were deposited in banks. The airy hopes that the Indian central bank would be able to extinguish a substantial chunk of its liabilities—and some mistakenly also argued that this would provide a fiscal bonanza that the government could use to recapitalize the banking system—have been belied. The minor relief is that the value of notes returned was not greater than the value of currency printed by the Indian central bank. That would have created a huge accounting mess.

Lessons to learn :-

  • Government did not seek the advice of experts before going ahead.
  • Good policy design should take into account how people will respond to any change in the rules of the game. In other words, incentives matter. Most rational human beings will adjust their behaviour to further their self-interest. Those who had illegal wealth held in cash obviously gamed the cash exchange process.
  • Political dynamics can be quite different from economic dynamics. That voters have continued to back the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) despite the pain imposed by demonetisation shows that the ruling party has gradually redefined its typical voter from the traditional trading base that supported the Bharatiya Jana Sangh to the aspirational middle class that has a lower tolerance for corruption.
  • This episode in India’s policy-making highlights an essential tenet of policy-making — the need for a cost benefit analysis. For any objective that is to be achieved, we need to examine various policy options and analyse their costs and efficacy. For an economy on the path of reform, with many more reforms still to come, long-term sustainable impact can be achieved only when we strengthen the policy-making process as well.

 


 

Topic: Indian economy; Laundering of black money

6) “Demonetisation has totally failed to curb black money.” Comment. (200 Words)

The Hindu

Introduction :- In mid-February 2017, three months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement on demonetisation, there were no immediate gains to be seen from the decision. True, the benefits, if any, of something as major as Demonetisation 2016 cannot be reaped immediately, they are to be had only in the long term.

RBI has told a parliamentary panel that it has ‘no information’ on how much black money has been removed due to demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes.

Demonetisation and black money :-

In its annual report for 2016-17, the RBI had disclosed that all but about 1% of the scrapped currency notes have come back into the system. The government had on 8 November 2016 banned old Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes in an attempt to weed out black money in the country. The old notes were allowed to be deposited in banks, with unusual deposits coming under income tax scrutiny. The government replaced old Rs 500 notes with new ones, but no replacement for Rs 1000 notes has been made. Instead, a new Rs 2000 note was introduced post note ban.

Critical analysis

  • One, very little of black money is held in the form of cash, so demonetisation was not going to destroy much of the unaccounted wealth.
  • Two, even if the government did want to track down unaccounted cash, demonetisation itself was not the best way to go about it since it hurt the entire population while trying to ensnare a small number of holders of illicit cash. An alternative would have been to collect, analyse and follow up on information on large cash withdrawals from banks and thereby identify possible flows of unaccounted cash.
  • Three, if, in spite of all the risks and limited chances of success, the government still wanted to go ahead with demonetisation, then the manner in which Demonetisation 2016 was designed and implemented was neither the only option nor the best one. There were other less destructive options available.

 

However there are many positive Effects of demonetization on black money

Already, several analysis projects that demonetization will bring several long-term besides netting black money deposited in the form of banned notes.  Hence, it is logical to classify the black money fighting effect of demonetisation as (a) direct or immediate and (b) long term.

(A) Direct or immediate effects :- Immediate effect of demonetisation comes through the netting of black money deposited in the banking system in the form of banned Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes from November 10 onwards.

Around Rs 12 lakh crore of the Rs 15.44 lakh crore demonetized currency is with banks now and the extent of black money identified out of this will be the direct effect. Here, it is believed that an estimated Rs 1.5 to 2 lakh crore may be identified as black income. Out of this, around Rs 1.2 lakh crores may be collected as taxes at 50% to 85% tax rate.

(B) Long term effects of demonetisation on black money :- The long-term effect will be much impactful and depends considerably upon how government deploys more measures to depress the shadow or black economy.

Shadow vs formal economy

A high proportion of the economic transaction happens in the shadow economy and hence are unaccounted. The real estate sector is the most important example. Reducing the size of the shadow economy by enlarging formal economy is the way out. Here, transactions should be recorded. To be recorded, disclosure about the buying and selling people by quoting their financial ID or PAN card is mandatory especially for big transactions. The real estate sector amounts to nearly 45% of India’s parallel economy.

The process of formalization

Formalization means under the monitoring of the government. Here, two formalization options are needed: recording (a) high value transactions and (b) low value transactions.

Formalizing high value transactions: Post demonetisation legal steps should be made to ensure mandatory PAN quoting for high value physical assets – gold/land etc. Though this measure is still prevailing, fragmentizing transactions into small helps black money. To avoid this, every small physical asset transaction should be made with Aadhaar ID proof. When each money is to be reported and recorded; land deals will become automatically white.

Formalizing small value transactions: Here, digitalizing transactions in the form of prepaid payment instruments, debit and credit cards and online payments will reduce black money. Several post-demonetisation steps were made by the government to promote digital payments.

A social shake up against black money

An awareness against black money and consciousness about legal and punitive measures is an intangible positive effect of this demonetisation. It will change the mindset of the people to keep away from black income. This shakeup of Indian society will be a big outcome though it may not be measurable.


 

Topic:   Ethical issues in international relations and funding

7) Why is ethics important in international relations? Discuss. (150 Words)

Reference

Introduction :- “Politics will, to the end of history,” writes Reinhold Niebuhr, “be an area where conscience and power meet, where the ethical and coercive factors of human life will interpenetrate and work out their tentative and uneasy compromises.”1 Working out such compromises requires a well-educated person, one who possesses the qualities that lay the foundation for a well-formed conscience.

  • Ethical questions are central to the study of international relations, as it is a field of study concerned with war and peace, trade and production, and law and rights. There is a long tradition of ethical reflection on international relations, stretching as far back as human beings .
  • International ethics is an area of international relations theorywhich concerns the extent and scope of ethical obligations between states in an era of globalization. Schools of thought include cosmopolitanism and anti-cosmopolitanism. Realism, Liberalism, and Marxism are ethical traditions that conceptually address moral issues in international relations.

Importance :- Ethics is required and important in following issues.

Legitimacy :-

Ethics does its work in the world by granting and withdrawing legitimacy. History shows that the mitigation and cessation of unjust practices ultimately comes from the assertion of core values. The end of slavery began with various revolutions and rebellions—yet the source of its ultimate demise was its loss of moral legitimacy.

Communism, for the most part, ended in similar fashion. The Soviet Union collapsed when the values that held it together were no longer credible and sustainable. Its legitimacy evaporated. The same could be said of apartheid South Africa. There has been more regime change in recent years because of the power of principles rather than the power of the gun.

  • New struggles for legitimacy can be found everywhere. We see normative consensus forming rejecting the tactic of terrorism. We see movement on the need to address climate change. We see new initiatives to shore up the so-called nuclear taboo and to move toward radical reductions in the number of nuclear weapons. We see strong voices rejecting genocide and promoting humanitarian intervention and the Responsibility to Protect. We see robust responses to issues of global health. We see serious attention given to the status of women. We see concern for global poverty and the plight of the least well off expressed in the aspirations of the UN’s Millennium Development goals. All of these issues are gaining normative legitimacy.

Rights and Responsibilities

  • Rights are protections and entitlements in relation to corresponding duties and responsibilities. There have been many attempts at forging general agreement on the composition of human rights—the best known being the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the United Nations Charter, the Geneva Conventions, and additional international agreement such as the Refugee Convention. The challenge with arguing for rights and responsibilities as an essential concept for the study of ethics and international affairs is that while we can achieve agreement at levels of high abstraction, the agreement begins to fray as we get down to cases. This is because at some point in the analysis, arguments become political—they become about differing values and interests. This realization need not be debilitating. But it does speak to challenge of forging moral agreement in ways that are actionable in policy terms.

Pluralism

  • Ideology presents a significant hurdle. Many political ideologies—”isms” and doctrines that are absolute and universal—result in what Hans Morgenthaucalled “the crusading spirit.” Absolutes and moral abstractions in politics can be problematic for the ethicist. Ideologies like nationalism, Marxism, communism, religious fundamentalism and even Western liberalism in the wrong hands, have been great simplifiers, prone to excesses of political operators who use them to cloak their political interests in the guise of high-minded moral purpose.

 

Fairness

  • Fairness addresses normative standards for appropriate contribution, equal regard and just desert. Contemporary methods for thinking through these standards include John Rawls’s “difference principle,” Amartya Sen’s “capabilities approach,” Peter Singer’s “one world,” and Kwame Anthony Appiah’s “cosmopolitanism” just to name a few.
  • Ideas about fairness are highly subjective and heavily influenced by circumstances. In the study of international affairs, fairness is a tool to critique social arrangements. The concept of fairness signals concern for the least well off, points to imbalances of prerogative and privilege, and helps us to understand the bases for legitimacy within social and political entities.