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Carter Dillard

Carter, author of Justice as a Fair Start in Life, began his career as an Honors Program appointee to the U.S. Department of Justice. He later served as a legal adviser to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in the national security law division. He wrote his thesis reformulating the right to have children under Jeremy Waldron, his extensive academic work on family planning has been published by Yale, Duke, and Northwestern Universities, as well as in peer-reviewed pieces, and he has served on the Steering Committee of the Population Ethics and Policy Research Project and was a Visiting Scholar at the Uehiro Center, both at the University of Oxford. He has taught at several law schools in the U.S. and served as a peer reviewer for the journal Bioethics. Carter also served as General Counsel with Animal Outlook, a director of litigation with the Humane Society of the United States, Director of Litigation and Senior Policy Advisor with the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and currently serves as pro bono counsel to Direct Action Everywhere, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Denver College of Law, and Co-lead organizer, Fair Start Movement and Humane Families Initiative.

The thesis of Justice as a Fair Start in Life:

By population we mean people, which really means 1) our creation, and primarily our early childhood/development, because of the disproportionate impact of this phase on our lives and who we are becoming. Also 2) while we think of people as individuals or groups of individuals, our creation also entails the creation of power relations between individuals, and between people and their ecology. Those relations can be created in relatively just, or unjust, ways. 3) And while most accounts of justice ignore the creation of these relations, creating them justly (e.g. using ecocentric environmental standards that free us from the influence of others) is the first condition of political obligation and legitimate political systems, and in free and self-determining societies where power derives from bottom up from the people, examining these relations - and the failure to create them justly - is the first and arguably exclusive way to account for things like crime, inequity, ecological crises, etc. 

The upshot of this is that rather than seeing democracies as constituted by documents created in the past, we should see them as first constituting - or forming actual and just power relations - which depends on whether families are actually empowering children through collective planning. We don't account for actual power relations, and hence cannot truly account for freedom or justice, without accounting for the creation of these relations. And each person is responsible for their decision to come, or not come, from such a just comprehensive position and thus be part of just or unjust communities. 

For example, over the past several decades as the climate crisis manifested and opportunities to avert it presented themselves, many charities claimed to be taking actions to protect animals and the environment. In reality they were ignoring or exacerbating the injustice of fundamental power relations by choosing anthropocentric and unsustainable family models that favored their wealthy donors, relations that are now causing immeasurable harm to future generations. While vegans pride themselves on not consuming animals they mostly choose to orient from a fundamental position that constitutes unjust communities busily eradicating the nonhuman world. 

When we think of people in a fuller or temporalized way, and power as any form of human influence, we can begin to move past the artifice of national borders, like lines on a globe, and see the true edges of human power as 1) nature or the nonhuman world, and 2) our creation and development in that context which better account for things like climate change, crime, massive inequity and other limitations on our freedom than national borders.

It would be impossible to account for justice or freedom without first accounting for this crucial border and phase of development and relations, and treating the values inherent here as part of some first obligation, because 1) creation/existence always precedes other modes of justice or freedom (e.g. how we deal with pandemics), and 2) because what makes us obligated in a system (to follow the law for example) is our capacity - contingent on the crucial phase - to consent to the influence of others / our become relatively self-determining rather than being constantly determined by others.

To ensure that capacity we would have to start at the border of human influence, or nature, and maintain a neutral position so that as any particular group grows the capacity for self-determination gives way (or is directly inverse to) the capacity for determination by others. To maintain the position, at a certain range, the group in question has to also divide. 

In this conception, fairness becomes the capacity to consent to the influence of others, and this tends to unify values like freedom and equity that might otherwise seem to conflict (which is a better account of the unity of value than that given by others, like Ronald Dworkin). And readiness to parent become an intent to empower one's futire child through the very system we are discussing. Family planning becomes a form 

To build that system we would need to change family planning policies, making them more equitable, to minimize the impact heat rises have on infants and their self-determination. We would have to ensure smaller families creating less emissions, in which each child is made resilient in part through health care sufficient to mitigate the harm - perhaps by targeting those responsible for the crisis to pay the costs they externalized, and in the form of for family planning incentives/entitlements and care. And those children would have to be raised capable of constituting autonomous political units, the sort where people are empowered to prevent crises like the climate crisis from occurring in the future. We might imagine the next cohort of future children, all placed along a spectrum of wealth and power, and them merging the margins to ensure all are equitably empowered. 

There are no obligations that precede the obligation to maintain this neutral position, or the obligation to ensure all children ecosocial fair starts in life. A system is fair and obligatory when it goes all the way back - or fully accounts for its power. We are skipping a crucial step if we don't do this. And adhering to obligations, like honoring government issued property rights before using that wealth to create people in a fair way, would be being dishonest - claiming a right/freedom that made no sense. The owners of that wealth would have never paid the price of freedom, never come from a just place, or fully accounted for the power of the system in which they live. The concentration of influence they enjoy flows from our failure to actually limit and decentralize power, or constitute ourselves, as free and equal people. It comes from our being preconstitutional. 

Some are beginning to recognize that our systems skipped the crucial step, and to fix it. Their demand creates the possibility of a real social contract, a fourth dimensional one, and means the violence protecting the wealth that might incentivize/entitle Fair Start physical democracy-building is the last hurdle between humans and freedom.