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Justice vs. Extortion

If equity's in, we're out.1

HOW CAN WE, the current generation, and especially the more affluent, rise to the ethical challenge of the perfect moral storm? How do we resist the various temptations, achieve at least minimal moral decency, and so avoid betraying the future or becoming the “scum of the Earth”? How might we go beyond this to be a genuinely great—the greenest—generation?

Our task would be easier if we had robust theories to guide us—especially concerning intergenerational ethics, global justice and community, and humanity’s relationship to nature. Alas, the lack of such theories is itself a major part of the challenge (and indulging inadequate theories one of the major temptations). What we need then is a sense of what to do in their absence. Fortunately, there are ways forward. For one thing, there are clear violations: “it may often be clear that a suggested answer is mistaken even if an alternative doctrine is not ready to hand.”2 For another, we can discern a general direction for policy through devices such as overlapping consensus and reasonable constraints. This chapter explores such strategies in light of economic realist objections. I begin with two strategies that seem deeply worrying in the context of the perfect storm, since they appear to encourage climate extortion, a clear ethical violation.

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