I would like to thank Christian Barry, David Grewal, Robert Hockett, Michael Pollak, Jedediah Purdy, Kunibert Raffer, Athanassios Tolis, and Lydia Tomitova for their valuable written comments. I would like to thank for their helpful suggestions the participants at a conference held at the New School for Social Research. Nicholas Tenev provided helpful research assistance.
International Debt: The Constructive Implications of Some Moral Mathematics
Article first published online: 19 MAR 2007
Ethics & International Affairs
Volume 21, Issue 1, pages 33–48, March 2007
How to Cite
Reddy, S. G. (2007), International Debt: The Constructive Implications of Some Moral Mathematics. Ethics & International Affairs, 21: 33–48. doi: 10.1111/j.1747-7093.2007.00059.x
- Issue published online: 19 MAR 2007
- Article first published online: 19 MAR 2007
Present arrangements governing the accumulation and discharge of debt by states are difficult to justify fully on the basis of underlying normative considerations. States are different from individuals in important respects, and the deontological justifications that explain why individuals have a strong burden to abide by promises to repay do not straightforwardly apply to countries. Consequentialist considerations must play a central role in determining what norms should govern the accumulation and discharge of sovereign debt. Modified background norms for the accumulation and discharge of international debt which permit countries’ repayments to be made formally contingent on specific circumstances and the reasons that these circumstances have arisen are more likely to be morally justifiable than the existing rules, which in general require countries to repay their debts according to an inflexible schedule. Modified rules for the accumulation and discharge of international sovereign debt can codify the moral and legal basis for existing ad hoc deviations and present a justifiable framework within which international lending and borrowing can take place.