Monthly Archives: December 2013

Fair trade versus buy local: shopping dilemmas for ethically conscious consumers

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The term fair trade has been appropriated by organisations and businesses working on improving livelihood opportunities and working conditions in developing countries. It is about connecting poor farmers and manufacturers to international marketing channels, and applying ethical standards to trade relations. Fair trade is now almost exclusively understood to be about goods imported from afar. Alongside fair trade, a growing ‘buy local’ movement advocates consumption of locally produced and locally manufactured goods, aiming (among other things) to cut carbon emissions by reducing shipping distances, and to develop local livelihoods and communities. People concerned about the social and environmental consequences of their purchasing decisions are increasingly wondering whether to choose fair trade, or choose local. Indeed this Christmas in Edinburgh, fair trade groups are calling for people to have a ‘fair trade Christmas’, while signs have popped up on the streets advising people to ‘buy local this Christmas’. Continue reading

Does Scotland have a right to secede?

Photo by Scottish Government

What is perhaps most striking about the debate regarding Scottish independence is not what people are saying but what they are ignoring.  When one brings the philosophical literature on secession to bear on the public debate one notices that a number of points are being assumed that require defence.  In this article, I wish to address a crucial assumption made on both sides, by the No camp as much as the Yes camp, by the UK government as much as the SNP: the assumption that Scotland has a right to unilaterally decide it’s future.

What gives Scotland a moral right to secede anyway?  One plausible view of secession is that an area of a state only has a right to secede if it is suffering serious forms of abuse.  Something close to this view is defended by perhaps the most prominent theorist of secession, Allen Buchanan.  It is also the view invoked in the world’s most famous secessionist document, the US Declaration of Independence.  According to the Declaration, “Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes”.  Secession can only be justified in light of “a long train of abuses”.  It was the long train of abuses that George III had supposedly inflicted against the thirteen colonies that, in the eyes of the Founding Fathers, justified their bid for secession.  What “long train of abuses” can the residents of Scotland complain of? Continue reading