On the Permissibility of Free-Riding on the Global Lingua Franca

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English today seems to be emerging as a global lingua franca. And a global lingua franca would be a global public good. Characteristically, being non-excludable, public goods are susceptible to free-riding: absent targeted distributive policies, some individuals can accrue a good’s benefits without having contributed to the costs of its production. In this paper, I make two arguments. First, I argue, against Philippe Van Parijs, that Anglophones are not unfairly free-riding on the efforts of non-Anglophones of producing English as a global lingua franca. I defend the view that instances of what counts as unfair free-riding should be limited to free-riding on public goods that are co-operatively produced. Second, I suggest an alternative claim that is available for Van Parijs to make. Van Parijs believes a global lingua franca is required by global justice. This is a highly controversial claim. But if he is right, then Anglophones' free-riding on the global lingua franca while not an instance of unfair free-riding, may be objectionable nonetheless.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-128
JournalRes Publica
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


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