Continuing from part one on Immanuel Kant’s essay “Perpetual Peace,” we go further into how Kant’s politics relate to his ethics and consider his actual policy proposals: each state must be a republic, i.e. somehow representative with separation of powers, and countries should join in a confederation. Kant also spells out the new idea of “cosmopolitan right,” which only entails that all states have a right of “universal hospitality” towards other countries’ citizens. So, for instance, you can’t just shoot foreigners on sight, though you needn’t allow them to freely immigrate either.
Kant believed that on the one hand, people are apt to behave selfishly, but on the other hand, there’s some kind of invisible hand or providence that can use this selfishness to bring about the kinds of changes he’s proposing. For instance, the benefits of unrestricted trade will bring nations closer together. The cross-border influence of intellectuals will help make the best political ideas (i.e. liberty and cooperation) prevail in the long run. Since it’s beneficial for nations to cooperate and avoid war, they will be motivated (on the whole, in the long run) to do this.
We also touch on Habermas’ essay “Kant’s Idea of Perpetual Peace, with the Benefit of Two Hundred Years’ Hindsight,” which we’ll explore further in part three of this episode. Habermas thinks, for one, that a mere federation that states voluntarily join is not going to have enough enforcement power to keep states from behaving poorly whenever it’s in their perceived interest. Also, cosmopolitan right should entail more, including the idea of basic human rights that every individual owes to each other, and so all governments owe to all people insofar as they have power over them.