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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 early childhood/development, because of the disproportionate impact of this phase on our lives and who we are. Also 2) while we think of people as individuals or groups of individuals, our creation also entails the creation of power relations between those individuals, and between people and their ecology. 

It entails these relationships. 

It would be impossible to account for justice or freedom without first accounting for this crucial phase of development and relations 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. 

For example, we would need to change family planning policies 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 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. 

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.