Building a more comprehensive, normative theory of competency placement

Practical Philosophy Seminar: Colin Rowe (KU Leuven, Belgium)

"Building a more comprehensive, normative theory of competency placement"

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Should the EU be in charge of COVID-19 vaccine procurement? Should we have global entities that ensure human rights? Should environmental protection be administered by local governments, or by states, or globally?

These are questions of competency placement or questions of ‘what level of government should be in charge of which things.’ They ask ‘who should be in charge of what?’ which, surprisingly, has been understudied in political theory. There are many theories of distributive justice which help us understand how best to distribute benefits and burdens in a society (see: Rawls, Dworkin, Cairns…) and even more theories of sovereignty that argue why ultimate authority should be placed at a particular level of government (see, for instance, Miller or Tamir argue for the nation-state and almost every other major philosopher throughout history). None of this speaks directly to how different levels of government, normatively, should be organized. The theories that do speak to this, such as all-affectedness or subsidiarity are not only conceptually and normatively vague, but also incomplete (should the administration of human rights, or a military really be closest to the individual as possible as subsidiarity says?). I argue that there is value (practical and normative), in producing a more comprehensive theory of competency placement. In this presentation I will briefly summarize what we are missing and present a working outline such a theory.


Colin Rowe, KU Leuven
Doctoral Candidate


Colin is a doctoral candidate at RIPPLE (KU Leuven, Belgium). He is from Victoria, BC, Canada and worked in Yukon (northern Canada) in Indigenous relations before starting his degree. He works on normative political theory with forthcoming papers on federalism in Ethiopia and the requirement to assistance immigrants with language acquisition. While his doctoral thesis is on competency placement and he is working on papers on simplicity and voting, and individual responsibility for state actions, he is also interested in the normative considerations of space exploration, population ethics, the interplay between cultural norms and immigration, incorporating meaningfulness into peoples lives and environmental ethics.


Practical Philosophy Seminar
Published Feb. 23, 2021 12:38 PM - Last modified June 28, 2022 10:10 AM