Debates about equality tend to take as their context the relations among citizens in a single society. Yet as we noted in the last chapter, problems of inequality obviously go beyond a particular territory or country. The equality gaps that concern us are no longer, as they were a hundred years ago, only between rich and poor persons within a country, but also between rich and poor peoples: problems of inequality are most egregious between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ in the international context. And yet we lack the capacity to redress global injustice: institutional resources, human motivation and the concepts of political philosophy all tend to presume the predominance of the nation-state paradigm. As one prominent commentator puts it, ‘liberal goals are achieved in a liberalised societal culture or nation.’1 Thus perhaps the toughest test of an egalitarian theory is what it can contribute to the promotion of equality, not among citizens, but around the globe. Few egalitarians would dispute that richer peoples have duties of redistribution to poorer peoples. The question is the extent of these duties of global justice, particularly in comparison to the duties of domestic justice. Consider the following example. Suppose an Englishman is on holiday in Spain. Walking along a deserted beach, he hears the voices of two men, crying out from the sea. ‘Help! For Gawd’s sake, help!’ is one. ‘Aidez-moi! Mon dieu, aidez-moi!’ is the other. Two men are drowning and begging for assistance, but our Englishman fears he cannot save them both. Would the demands of ‘compatriot preference’ dictate that he should save his fellow Englishman and allow the Frenchman to drown?2 This seems a despicable conclusion. Yet most people would agree that nationality is the basis for a sense of connection that generates special obligations with the result that one’s co-nationals, particularly disadvantaged co-nationals, come first. The policy of looking out for one’s own is bolstered by the view that the distant disadvantaged are better served if they are left to help themselves, a policy that respects their capacity for self-determination. Others argue that nationality is arbitrary and that there is no reason why an adequate egalitarian theory should not be global in scope, with no regard for borders or territory. In the face of this difficult tension, I argue in this chapter that the human flourishing approach can illuminate problems of international justice. Last chapter we noted how the concept of the public good had global application.

Here I zero in on human flourishing’s role in remedying global inequality. Focusing on rendering human flourishing more equal will enable us to find a middle course, which affirms our cosmopolitan duties whilst recognising the inevitable and valuable role of a culture of self-determining citizenship. If we are to make human beings in the world more equal, then we must consider how cultural practices affect human flourishing.