This essay examines the role of international law is in promoting indirectly global (and domestic) distributive justice. This focus on institutions and processes at the global level is grounded on the assumption that questions of the just allocation and reallocation of resources are ultimately resolved through processes of public deliberation or open contestation (including through the involvement of courts). I argue that the key to approaching a more just allocation of resources is by addressing the democratic deficits that underlie the skewed distribution (or the lack of redistribution) of assets and opportunities. My claim is that international law can play a role in the political empowerment of weak constituencies (within and between states). In doing so, international law can indirectly shape the distribution and redistribution of resources, in a manner that is more dignified and preferable to handing them charitable contributions. Just like the empowerment of labor by the freedom of association, legal intervention that empowers disadvantaged communities will not only increase their bargaining power, but also enable them to function as agents rather than as charity recipients.
WPS 09-17 (pdf)