Carter Dillard

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Carter Dillard

Carter Dillard is the policy adviser for the Fair Start Movement. He served as an Honors Program attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice and also served with a national security law agency before developing a comprehensive account of reforming family planning for the Yale Human Rights and Development Law Journal.

Latest by this author

Carter Dillard began his career as an Honors Program appointee to the U.S. Department of Justice, eventually practicing national security law with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security where he developed a human-rights approach to family planning published by Yale Law School that would have significantly mitigated the climate crisis. At NYU he wrote his thesis, on that approach, under Jeremy Waldron.

Carter has also served as a peer-reviewer for the journal Bioethics, as part of the Steering Committee of the Population Ethics and Policy Research Project, and as Visiting Scholar at the Uehiro Center, both at the University of Oxford in Oxford, England.

In 2023, Carter became a whistleblower in a Newsweek op-ed showing wrongdoing, around measuring climate reparations, in U.S. climate litigation.

Carter is author of Justice as a Fair Start in Life (Eliva Press, 2021), which explores what is the called the "constitutive fallacy"—basing one's obligation to follow the law on top-down instruments like written constitutions rather than bottom-up family reforms that actually empower people in a measurable way, and enable them to physically constitute - under the Children's Convention - legitimate societies. His book reveals what's called the #FamScam.

What is the #FamScam?

Civil society organizations have been knowingly undoing claimed progress with outdated family policies that disempowered most people in order to—per one Nobel Laureate - grow economies that benefitted a few. That undoing of democracy fundamentally created the climate and inequity crises we face today. Take action and urge any group you support to tell the #wholetruth about the impact of family policies on their progress, and to adopt internal employment policies that start to change this.
Fair Start Movement | May 2022

While the pro-choice lobby and legal maneuvering meant to protect the right to terminate a pregnancy has focused on women’s bodily autonomy, there are actually at least three interests at stake in that decision: 1) Women’s bodily autonomy, 2) the interests of the future child (not the fetus, but the child that would have otherwise existed), and 3) the interests of society more generally. As a safe rule of thumb if a mother does not want to have a child, interests two and three are not going to go very well.

And while women’s bodily autonomy is crucial, interests two and three actually precede it because that autonomy occurs after and within the formation of society—which is the thing two and three account for.

Fair Start Movement | December 2022

Animals do not benefit from human population growth. Why do their advocates promote it?

Animal rights, as a social movement, has largely failed. During a time when advocates promoted flashy “wins” like ballot initiatives, animal use skyrocketed based on pro-growth policies that most animal advocates did nothing to oppose, even as those policies were being ramped up and crucial funding that could have blunted the climate crisis was being redirected to ineffective uses.

Newsweek | January 2023

Climate activists around the world have spent years urging the courts to force governments and companies to do more to mitigate the climate crisis, often invoking fundamental human rights as a way to override the political processes that are failing to act. Many of those cases center on the idea that there is a constitutional right to a healthy environment, which courts should be protecting. Often the heart of this approach – embodied in litigation brought by groups like Our Children's Trust (OCT) - is defined by what would be good for humans, an anthropocentric approach, rather than what would be good for the vast and disparate number of more fragile nonhuman species with whom we share the world.

Newsweek | March 2023

The trolley problem is a story philosophers often use to get people thinking about ethics and their obligations to others. Traditionally, the problem has us imagine we are an onlooker standing next to a trolley track. There are five people tied to the track ahead of a moving trolley. We have the choice to save the five by pulling a lever and diverting the trolley to another track. But there is someone tied to that other track. If we pull the lever, we save the five, but the trolley will certainly kill the one person.

What's the right thing to do?

Publications by this author

Justice as a Fair Start in Life: Understanding the Right to Have Children (Eliva Press, 2021)

“Heidegger wants us to recapture the sense of people as unique and valuable, and this seems like the central argument of Dillard’s book.”

How did we ever come to believe in the myth of intentional, just and legitimate systems of social organization - like states, corporations, and families—without actually accounting for the fair creation, development and consensual inclusion of future generations—the majority of persons—into those systems? How is consent, or self-determination, possible without that account? What norm could possibly precede that account? These articles—several peer-reviewed and originally published by Yale, Duke, Northwestern and other universities—will argue that, abstraction aside, there is no real justice without ensuring all children a fair start in life, both socially and ecologically. We first move towards justice by reforming the moral and legal right to have children, and the family planning systems the right creates, around zero baseline—or Fair Start—modeling that through collective child-centric planning enables consent to power and thus relative self-determination against the true baseline of nonpolity. Without it, we never orient our actions from a just, or inclusive and reflective, position.

“The Legal Theory Bookworm (Prof. Larry Solum at the University of Virginia School of Law) recommends Justice as a Fair Start in Life: Understanding the Right to Have Children” by Carter Dillard.

“[Dillard’s] proposals are bound to provoke controversy. They include family-planning policies designed to drive constructive climate migration and reduce the number of children per household in wealthier countries. But there’s much to like in his ideal of equal respect for future persons, his fundamental concern for power relations across generations, and the connection that he urges between the size of successive cohorts and the access they will have to basic public goods." Professor Dov Fox, University of San Diego, School of Law. Professor Fox was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to attend Oxford University, where he earned his doctorate in political theory and served as a lecturer in politics and philosophy. He received a Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans to attend Yale Law School, where he was projects editor of the Yale Law Journal and all three years awarded the prize for best paper in law and science.

"It is this sweeping breadth of understanding that makes the book special, this joining of dots between child, parent and planet, like a journey from Foucault’s bio-power to Bradiotti’s zoe-power." Amrita Nandy - Amrita research scholar and activist based in New Delhi. Amrita was the Fox International Fellow (2013-2014) from the New Delhi-based Jawaharlal Nehru University. Amrita has a Master’s in Women s Studies from the University of Oxford, U.K.

"Fair Start moves the discussion away from population and toward people, away from counting people and toward making people count. If we care about freedom, we first care about people because in democratic systems they - ultimately - have political authority over us. A just creation norm makes God fair, our systems consensual, and frees us from one another. This book thus seeks to correct what we might call the constitutive or grundnorm fallacy: The mistake of trying to derive inclusive systems of justice, and freedom, downstream of our creation rather than going to the source—just family planning. Correcting that mistake, and understanding the right to have children, resolves a corruption at the heart of human rights which makes a system designed to protect the most vulnerable, like future persons, fundamentally exploitative of them. The creation norm is what most accounts, and should most account, for the lives we experience. Making that norm fair brings us to optimal world populations. It is also the most effective solution to the ecosocial crises we face today, with the weight of evidence showing ten to twenty times the impact, via redistributive Fair Start family planning entitlements/incentives, on things like the climate crisis and economic inequality relative to downstream measures. "Justice is not abstract, but created in the constant and fundamental formation—or procreation—of power relations."

David N. Cassuto(Professor of Law & Faculty Director of Graduate Programs): "The planet is burning, the right to procreate is not absolute, and nature is a habitat not a resource. Carter Dillard, author of Justice as a Fair Start in Life: Understanding the Right to Have Children, wants to make you uncomfortable. Dillard, is a legal scholar, an animal-rights lawyer, and the founder of an NGO dedicated to promoting the idea of family planning as a moral and legal responsibility. This is an important book. It does not provide an easy read but then, maybe a little discomfort is good. We are trying to save a planet here."

The chapters "show a comprehensive command of the relevant literature . . . well-grounded in theory, they provide a linear, coherent presentation of their argument, and the argument itself is, in varying degrees, original and creative." Expert peer-review

Feature | March 2022

In "Sentientist Conversations" Jamie Woodhouse and Carter Dillard talk about the two most important questions: “what’s real?” & “what matters?”

Sentientism is "evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings."

The audio is on our Podcast: https://apple.co/391khQO & https://pod.link/1540408008.

Interview | March

Jack Humphrey: Give us a synopsis of your piece in Newsweek.

Carter Dillard: So there are really at least two ways to approach environmentalism and protecting our environment. There's the anthropocentric approach, which treats nature as a human resource and resources to be conserved. And there's an ecocentric approach which treats nature or the non-human world as a living system that deserves its own rights and obligations to it because there are creatures that live there that have their own autonomous worlds, their own desires and their own lives, and inevitably anthropocentrism—or using the non-human world or nature as a human resource—is what created the climate crisis. It we thought we could control that system of use, we are unable to control it.

Events with this author

RIP SDG? Are the UN Sustainable Development Goals Enough to Save Us? (Scientists Warning Europe)

Tue, 15 November 2022, 18:00 – 20:00 GMT

Join Scientists Warning Europe for the third event in our Road to COP27 series.

This session includes a 45-minute panel discussion, followed by a 30-minute Q&A session where attendees are invited to share ideas and explore topics further.

Panelists include:

• Ed Gemmell - Managing Director of Scientists Warning Europe, Climate Politician • Naomi Sheehan - Sustainable Development Scientist & Climate Advisor • Carter Dillard - Fair Start Movement Policy Advisor • Victoria Harvey - PhD researcher, Climate Change at University East Anglia • Steve Pipe - Author and former UK Entrepreneur of The Year

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