Summarize the charge brought against Socrates both formal in the sense of the actual criminal indictment and informal in the sense of his bad reputation then explain
why Socrates invokes the pronouncement of the delphic oracle in his defense
To examine this topic we will first briefly consider three theories of social justice/human rights and then relate these theories to the interrelated (international)
problems of (1) Extreme Poverty, (2) Population Pressures, and (3) Environmental Degradation and Destruction and, finally, briefly examine programs and policies
necessary to solve these problems and achieve social justice. In examining the theories of social justice we will be doing ���pure��� social and political philosophy but
when consider the three primary problems and some possible solutions we will be doing what might be called ���applied��� social and political philosophy since more
specific empirical issues will be addressed. But there is no problem with this so long as we take care to distinguish the moral claims (theories) from the empirical,
social-scientific claims we are utilizing in the former���s application.
I. Three Theories of Social Justice:
A. John Rawls���s Theory (A Theory of Justice, 1971) (Rawls is widely recognized as the most important and influential moral, social, and political philosopher of the
late 20th Century and, in many people���s opinion, of the entire 20th Century)
B.Rodney G. Peffer���s Theory (���Towards a More Adequate Rawlsian Theory of Social Justice, 1994)
C. U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference (Economic Justice for All, 1986)
A. John Rawls���s Theory
(A) John Rawls���s Theory can be summarized as being composed of three principles (listed in order of priority):
1. Maximum Equal Basic Liberties (civil liberties and political rights, and the right to own personal property)
2. Fair Equality of Opportunity (so that persons of approximately equal natural talents and abilities will have approximately equal chances of success in the
competition for jobs and positions)
3. The Difference Principle (social and economic inequalities are justified if and only if they benefit the least advantaged ��� i.e. poorest ��� segment of the
My suggested modifications of his theory (first published in 1990) were (1) that a Basic Rights Principle protecting people���s security and subsistence rights must be
recognized as the first (i.e. most important) principle of social justice; (2) that the inequalities allowed under the Difference Principle must not exceed levels that
either undermine the approximate equal worth of the liberties specified by the Maximum Equal Basic Liberties Principle or undermine the least advantaged sense of
self-respect; and (3) that a Social and Economic Democracy Principle also be accepted (even if it is considered the least important principle of social justice).
In his 1993 work Political Liberalism (p.7) and in his later 2001 work Justice as Fairness: A Restatement (p. 44) John Rawls explicitly accepted my first two suggested
���R.G. Peffer���s Theory of Social Justice (which contains the modifications I suggested be made in Rawls���s theory) has five principles:
���(1) Everyone���s basic security and subsistence rights are to be met; that is, everyone���s physical integrity is to be respected and everyone is to be guaranteed a
minimum level of material well-being including basic needs, i.e., those needs that must be met in order to remain a normally functioning human being and citizen.
���(2) There is to be a fully adequate scheme of equal basic liberties, including: ���(a) freedom of speech and assembly, liberty of conscience and freedom of
thought, freedom of movement and free choice of occupation, freedom of the person along with the right to hold (personal) property, and freedom from arbitrary arrest
and seizure as defined by the concepts of due process and the rule of law, and
��� (b) the political liberties such as the right to vote and to run for (and hold) political office. ��� And these political liberties ��� including the
rights to free political speech and assembly ��� are to be guaranteed their (approximate) equal worth. ��� (3) There is to be fair equality of opportunity in the
competition for social positions and offices. ��� (4) Social and economic inequalities are justified if and only if they benefit the least advantaged, consistent with
the just savings principle, but are not to exceed levels that will (a) undermine (approximately) equal worth of the liberties required by due process and/or (b) the
good of self-respect.
��� (5) There is to be an equal right to participate in decision-making processes within social and economic institutions of which one is a member.
Let us call these principles the (1) Basic Rights Principle, (2) Equal Basic Liberties Principle, (3) Fair Equality of Opportunity Principle, (4) Modified Difference
Principle, and (5) Social and Economic Democracy Principle. Even though John Rawls officially accepted my version of the Basic Rights Principle as the first
principle of social justice as well as my modifications of the Difference Principle, we continued to differ on whether the economic principles in the theory (namely,
the Basic Rights Principle and the Modified Difference Principle) should be applied internationally (as I hold) or only nationally (as Rawls continued to hold).
C. The U.S. Bishops��� Pastoral Economic Justice for All exposits a theory of social justice that almost completely overlaps with the theory of economic justice put
forward by my version of Rawls���s theory. According to it, although Christians have special obligations based on love of God and neighbors, everyone has the obligation
to promote institutions that ensure: A. Basic Rights to Well-Being (41) (= My first principle) B. Civil Liberties (41) (= My principle 2A) C.
Political Rights/Rights to Participation (41) (= My 2B & 5) D. Special Obligation to the Poor (���Preferential Option for the Poor���) (33) (= My
II. Social Justice and Three Major (and Interrelated) Problems
In the Contemporary World anyone committed to striving for social justice (and human rights) must not only strive for the elimination of Extreme Poverty (i.e. poverty
so severe that people are not having their basic needs met on a continuing basis) but also strive to solve (or at least ameliorate) the closely related problems of
Population Pressures and Environmental Degradation and Destruction. But why is this? How are these three problems causally related to each other (especially on an
international level)? And what programs, policies, and/or institutions are necessary to solve these problems?
Arguably, these three phenomena are causally related and the causal relations go in every direction between them (except one). However, by saying that these phenomena
are ���causally related��� to each other I mean that ���all things being equal, one phenomenon is an important factor in causing the other���; not that it is the only factor.
But if this causal analysis is correct then anyone who wants to do something about one of these problems must, of necessity, try also to do something about the other
ones; otherwise they will not achieve their goal. (Many people, of course, accept both Saving the Environment and Eliminating Extreme Poverty as goals having
intrinsic moral value. The goal of slowing population growth rates and, perhaps, eventually decreasing human population (through attrition rather than violence or
coercion) is normally not accepted as intrinsically morally valuable but it is accepted by many as a necessary goal to pursue in order to achieve the other two goals.
1. Large, Dense, and Increasing Human Populations causally contribute to Environmental Degradation & Destruction
It is perhaps obvious that, all things being equal, the higher the human population the more natural resources will be consumed to feed, clothe, and house them and to
provide them education, healthcare, etc. (not to mention consumer goods) and, consequently, the more byproducts of the use of these resources (the negative
byproducts being called ���pollution���) will be produced. Of course, all things may not always be equal. As the ecologist and political activist Barry Commoner has
pointed out, an intervening factor (or variable) that effects the connection between human population and the depletion of natural resources and production of
pollution is the choice of technologies. (He argues that green technologies ��� those more friendly to the environment ��� should be preferred.)
However, as many U.N. and other studies have suggested, in order to help protect the natural environment we should aim at using humane and non-coercive measures to
reduce population growth rates and perhaps also aim at reducing, by attrition, the absolute number of people on the planet over the long run (over the next 100 years
or more). None of this, however, is to understood as accepting or advocating the Neo-Malthusian view that there are already too many people on the planet to feed (or
there very soon will be) and, thus, we should let the poorest of the poor simply starve to death (as such theorists as Garrett Hardin suggest).
1. Large, Dense, and Increasing Human Populations causally contribute to Extreme Poverty
It is also perhaps obvious that, all things being equal, the higher the human population the more people will live in extreme poverty. Immediately we need to add that
one incredibly important intervening variable that will strongly effect this correlation is how income and wealth are distributed in societies
(and between societies). It is quite probably the case that even with the earth���s current population of 6.2 billion people (or perhaps 8, 10, 12, or 14 billion people
��� which is the range of estimates of what the human population will be by 2050 when it may peek and level out) everyone could still be afforded a minimally decent life
if income, wealth, and social services were more equally distributed. But who would argue that everyone could be afforded even a minimally decent life (i.e. not
living in extreme poverty) if the earth had 20, 30, 40, or 50 billion people? It is extraordinarily improbable that we could assure everyone a minimally decent life
if population reached these astronomical levels ��� let alone that we could stop the natural environment from being extremely degraded and eventually destroyed. (Indeed,
many ecologists think that we are nearing the collapse of some parts of the earth���s ecosystem even with the present population. (See Robert Goodland, ���The Case that
the World has Reached Its Limits��� in Donald VanDeVeer (ed.), The Environmental Ethics and Policy Book.) Thus, there seems to be an undeniable connection between
higher levels of human population and extreme poverty, even though this connection is not the only or perhaps even the primary reason for current levels of extreme
poverty in the world. Certainly, the unequal distribution of income, wealth, and decision- making power both within and between societies (between the North and the
South) is an extremely important causal factor that must be dealt with.
1. Environmental Degradation & Destruction causally contributes to Extreme Poverty
It also seems obvious that, all things being equal, Environmental Degradation and Destruction causally contributes to Extreme Poverty (both in many specific natural
environments and for the earth���s population as a whole). The degradation of many specific natural environments make resources more scarce
and, thus, more expensive to obtain (either in terms of labor expended or money or both) and, thus, all things being equal, throw more people into extreme poverty.
For example, the desertification of areas of northern part of ���Sub- Saharan��� Africa ��� due to the encroachment of the Sahara ��� has led more and more subsistence farmers
and pasturalists there to be thrown into extreme poverty due to loss of fertile soils, the greater scarcity of water and firewood, and the depletion of stocks of
domestic animals (due, in turn, to less food and water being available for them).
On a planetary level, the depletion of natural resources ��� such as oil ��� usually lead to higher prices and, thus, lead to people living on the margin of extreme
poverty to oftentimes fall into it. Although both these local and global cases of more people falling into extreme poverty might be avoidable by devoting more social
and governmental resources to aiding them and by a more equal distribution of wealth and income (or possibly by new technologies or materials being produced to offset
the loss of natural resources), there does seem to be a strong causal connection between Environmental Degradation and Destruction and Extreme Poverty.
1. Extreme Poverty causally contributes to Environmental Degradation and Destruction
Somewhat less obviously, perhaps, all things being equal, the more people who live in extreme poverty in a given area the more likely it is that certain types of
environmental degradation will occur. This is because extremely poor people are often forced to eke out a living by exploiting fragile environments or using
environmentally destructive techniques to exploit healthy natural
environments. Examples of the first sort abound, especially in the Third World. As the number of extremely poor people increase in rural areas they are often forced
to farm relatively arid areas or steep hillsides both of which lead to erosion and the depletion of arable soil. An example of extremely poor people using
environmentally destructive techniques to exploit a healthy natural environment is the slash and burn horticulture practiced by hundreds of thousands (perhaps
millions) of extremely poor people who live on the edges of the Amazon Rainforest. This leads to the increasing depletion of the rainforest since land that is farmed
in such a way looses its fertility in only two to three years and, thus, the slash and burn farmers have to keep leapfrogging past their neighbors who have cut down
small parcels of the rainforest in the intervening two or thee years. Thus, in this way vast numbers of people are constantly nibbling away at the Amazon Rainforest.
However, this is not to say that this is the only or even the primary cause of the depletion of the Amazon rainforest. The other important causes are the cutting down
of the rainforest by (1) large ranches (latifundias) in order to turn it into pastures for their cattle, (2) timber and mining companies (many of which do so without
the legally required permits), and (3) large farmers and agricultural corporations for purposes of raising soybeans (which takes a lot of fertilizer given the relative
lack of nutrients in the soil ��� something that poor farmers are usually not able to afford).
In fact, it is commonly claimed by experts in the field that the most destructive groups of people on the planet (as divided by income and wealth) are the richest 20%
and the poorest 20%. (The bulk of the populations of the First World countries together with the rather negligible number of relatively wealthy people in Third World
countries makes up the wealthiest 20% of the world���s population.) The wealthiest people are environmentally destructive because we consume such an incredible amount of
resources (much of which is for unnecessary ��� and in many cases, conspicuous ��� consumption) and, consequently, are also responsible for the emission of a large and
disproportionate amount of pollution. (For example, the population of the United States currently has about 5% of the world���s population but uses between 20-25% of
the earth���s resources every year and produces between 20-25% of the world���s pollution every year.)
The poorest quintile (20%) of people are environmentally destructive because of such factors as those exhibited above and others such as the urban poor being forced to
live in shantytowns in which sewer systems and water systems are oftentimes not available, thus polluting the soil and ground water with nitrates, etc. (The U.N.
estimates that approximately 20% of the earth���s population lives in extreme poverty; i.e. poverty so severe that their basic needs for minimal nutrition, clothing,
shelter, basic health care, etc. are not being met on a continuing basis.)
5. Extreme Poverty causally contributes to Higher Population Growth Rates and, thus, to Higher Population Levels
This may be counterintuitive at first glance. First, it is obvious that if the poverty that people face is so horrendous that they end up starving to death or dying
from the effect of chronic malnutrition (and/or under-nutrition) or the
lack of basic healthcare (like childhood inoculations) this sort of extreme poverty will actually (at least temporarily and locally) decrease population rather than
increase it. But for reasons explained below, social-scientific studies have shown that in general and over the long run the factors that make Extreme Poverty
causally contribute to Higher Populations overwhelm the above-mentioned factor. Another reason that this claim is counterintuitive at first glance is that it is
natural to think that the poorer a population is, the less children per family they will tend to have, because it is easier to feed and clothe a smaller number of
children as opposed to a larger number. But social scientific studies have proved, beyond doubt, that poor people tend to have larger families than people who are not
as poor. The explanation for this is as follows.
First, there is the so-called ���Many Hands Phenomenon��� which is the fact that very poor people tend to have more children, rather than less, because in many particular
situations the extra ���hands��� (i.e. workers) are a financial benefit rather than a burden since they are cheap (unpaid) sources of labor for working the land, gathering
water and firewood from increasingly distant places (in many cases), or even for selling flowers or candy (etc.) on the streets in urban areas (which is frequently the
only way that the urban poor have of eking out a living).
Second, poorer people tend to have less access to education, healthcare, and family planning programs and facilities (and contraceptive devices), and people who do not
have access to these things tend to have more children.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, cultural norms encouraging larger families are prevalent in traditional cultures and among poorer peoples. In these cultural
contexts women���s only (or primary) way of achieving social status is to be a wife and mother and to have many children. Social-scientific studies of these cultural
norms in favor of having larger families have shown that this is connected to the material factor that the more children very poor people have the more chance there is
that at least one of those children will become economically successful enough to take care of their parents in their old age or when they become too ill or injured to
work. It goes without saying that this factor can be negated by the development of a Social Safety Net ��� i.e. a system of basic healthcare, education, and social
security that will insure people that they won���t live in extreme poverty even if they are too old or ill to work. This is the essential condition for the so-called
Demographic Transition from high population growth rates to lower (sustainable) growth rates, although having access to family planning programs and the empowerment of
women are also important factors.
The one causal connection that does not obtain at all in any direct way is from Environmental Degradation and Destruction to Higher Population levels. In fact, the
causal correlation is rather clearly a negative rather than a positive one. That is, when a local or regional natural environment is severely degraded or destroyed
the population level usually decreases due to increased mortality rates, decreased birth rates, and migrations out of the area. On the other hand, there is perhaps an
indirect causal connection that might be taken to show that there is some positive
causal correlation tendency between Environmental Degradation and Destruction and Higher Population levels. This is because it has been established that Environmental
Degradation and Destruction is positively correlated with Extreme Poverty and, furthermore, that Extreme Poverty is positively correlated with Higher Population levels
which would seem to indicate that there is an indirect (roundabout) positive correlation tendency between Environmental Degradation and Destruction and Higher
Population levels. But this would not seem to outweigh the negative correlation between the former and the latter (especially when applied to local and regional
environments in the process of being degraded or destroyed).
III. Measures to Solve These Interrelated Problems and Achieve Social Justice
(A) EXTREME POVERTY
1. Policies, programs, and institutions aimed at reducing inequalities both within and between societies (and eliminating extreme poverty) must be implemented with
the goal of every able-bodied (and able-minded) person having the opportunity to earn a minimally decent living and every person who is not able-bodied (or able-
minded) being provided at least a minimally decent life.
2. With regard to the Third World: a. Third World debt relief and a restructuring of the international economic order (IMF, World Bank, WTO, NAFTA, etc.) to be
more equitable towards Third World nations, including the elimination or austerity or ���structural readjustment��� programs as a condition for receiving international
loans, aid, etc.
b. Payment of a living wage to all workers ��� i.e. a wage not only sufficient to meet the minimum needs of the individual worker but of his or her
family as well. And, conjointly, the abolition of child labor ��� at least with regard to young children ��� and the establishment of school systems
to educate these children. c. Land reform to give land to small farmers, either individually or in cooperatives.
d. Third World countries to implement the policy of national food self-reliance, which has two prongs: i. cultivating enough of its own arable land to
raise sufficient staple crops to insure that its population can be (at least) minimally well-fed, ii. establishing some kind of food entitlement system to
make sure that everyone in their societies has access to minimally adequate nutrition. (See Rodney G. Peffer, ���World Hunger, Moral Theory, and
Radical Rawlsianism,��� 2004)
e. Wealthy nations to reach the .8% level of GNP for developmental aid to the Third World (per U.N. agreements)
f. Institution of the Tobin Tax; i.e. a .5% tax on international currency transactions above $10,000 per day, the proceeds ��� estimated at about $300 billion per year
��� to be put in an international fund for Third World development. This would also help stabilize currencies, which would be a major benefit to Third World countries.
g. Implementation of an egalitarian carbon-credit (or carbon- rights) scheme which would, in give the Third World nations a resource ��� namely, their excess
greenhouse gas emission rights ��� to trade to First World countries for approved technologies and other forms of aid in the areas of the environment (conservation and
green technologies), infrastructure, healthcare, family planning, education, telecommunications, etc. that would improve the condition of both their populations and
the environment. (See Rodney G. Peffer, ���World Justice, Carbon Credit Schemes, and Planetary Management Authorities,��� 1998)
h. The Political Sovereignty and Territorial Integrity of countries (states) must not be forcefully interfered with except for purposes of stopping ongoing,
massive, systematic violations of a population’s Basic ��� i.e. Subsistence and Security ��� Rights. First World countries must not interfere with measures taken by
Third World countries aimed at providing for their population���s subsistence rights. No other counties have a right to overthrow regimes that are striving to ensure
people’s subsistence rights (and give them an opportunity to achieve a minimally decent life) and which do not systematically violate security rights. (For example,
the U.S. Does not have the right to try to overthrow or undermine the Cuban government and the socialist economy it has created.) So-called ���humanitarian��� military
interventions must be strictly limited to ending ongoing genocides, mass rape campaigns, etc. and, except in situations of extreme emergency, must be
i. Restructuring the United Nations to distribute power more equally between nations by, for example, making Japan, Germany, India, and Brazil permanent members of
the Security Council and instead of letting any of its members have veto power, requiring a 2/3 vote on important issues with weighted voting in the council (e.g. 5
votes for the current five members of the council, 3 for the newly added permanent members, and 1 vote for the other members of the council elected for two years and
equally distributed between Europe, the Western Hemisphere, Asia, and Africa). Also, implementing Jurgen Habermas’s suggestion that the current U.N. General Assembly
be kept as a ���Senate���and a second, larger chamber be added which is elected in accord with population (like the U.S. House of Representatives).
(B) POPULATION ISSUES
Bring about the so-called Demographic Transition to sustainable population growth rates by:
1. Providing a Social Safety Net to make sure that people���s basic needs (subsistence rights) are met (by implementing the above measures).
2. Ensuring access to Family Planning Programs and Facilities for purposes of: (a) education about family planning and (b) access to contraceptives (for those
who want to use them).
3. Empowering Women by giving them more opportunities to achieve social status in addition to being a wife and mother by providing them opportunities for
education and opportunities to earn an income (if they should choose to do so). (This should include the so-called micro-loan programs aimed at women in the
(C ) THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT
First, all nations ��� including the United States ��� to agree to (and adhere to) all international environmental agreements (e.g. those reached at the Rio de Janeiro
���Earth Summit��� in 1992, the Kyoto Accords on greenhouse gas emissions, etc.).
Second, we should abide by the following recommendations in the 1992 document ���World Scientists��� Warning to Humanity��� signed by over 1600 scientists including over 100
���(1) We must bring environmentally damaging activities under control to restore and protect the integrity of the earth���s systems we depend on. We must, for example,
move away from fossil fuels to more benign, inexhaustible energy sources to cut greenhouse gas emissions and the pollution of our air and water. Priority must be
given to the development of energy sources matched to Third World needs ��� small-scale and relatively easy to implement. We must halt deforestation, injury to and loss
of agricultural land, and the loss of terrestrial and marine plant and animal species.
(2) We must manage resources crucial to human welfare more effectively. We must give high priority to efficient use of energy, water, and other materials, including
expansion of conservation and recycling.
(3) We must stabilize population. This will be possible only if all nations recognize that it requires improved social and economic conditions, and the adoption of
effective voluntary family planning.
(4) We must reduce and eventually eliminate poverty.
(5) We must ensure sexual equality, and guarantee women control over their own reproductive decisions.��� (In The Environmental Ethics & Policy Book, 3rd ed., Donald
VanDeVeer, et al. ed, Wadsworth, 2003, pp. xxviii-xxix.)
It is interesting to note that this large group of scientists (whom are primarily concerned with informing us about the natural environment ��� and how to save it) saw
fit to strongly recommend the stabilization of the human population, the elimination of poverty, the empowerment of women as three essential conditions for doing so.
Again, this shows how intimately related are the problems of Extreme Poverty, Population Pressures, and the Degradation and Destruction of the Natural Environment.
To accept and promote these measures is not only a matter of justice (to humans) and morality (towards other organisms) but also enlightened self- interest (especially
if we���re willing to include unborn generations in the group whose interests we view as our own.
Third, wealthy societies ought to cut down on their consumption of natural resources and emission of pollution by, for one thing, banning manipulative advertising (as
opposed to plain, informative advertising) so as to dampen down the culture of material acquisition and conspicuous consumption that is rampant in such societies.
Finally, although this might be more a matter of Interspecific Justice than Social Justice, there should be an immediate moratorium on building roads (for timber or
mining interests) into virgin tropical rainforests ��� especially those in Africa ��� to stop the ���genocide of many species of forest animals (including chimpanzees and
gorillas). In addition, the wealthy nations should compensate the African nations involved for lost revenues while at the same time demanding stepped up enforcement
of treaties and laws prohibiting the slaughter of rare species.