G Madison Powers


Senior Research Scholar
Kennedy Institute of Ethics Professor, Philosophy Department


Department of Philosophy
General profile






Dr. Powers is Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Senior Research Scholar in the Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Georgetown University. From 2000 to 2009, he served as Director of the Kennedy Institute.

Dr. Powers has published numerous journal articles and book chapters on a variety of topics in normative and practical philosophy, including a long-standing interest in questions of justice in public health and social policy. Drs. Powers and Ruth Faden are co-authors of a recent book, Social Justice: The Moral Foundations of Public Health and Health Care Policy (NY: Oxford University Press, 2006; revised edition, 2008).

Dr. Powers was a recipient of a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Investigator Award, and for many years he also served as a member and as chair of the National Advisory Committee for the Program. In addition, he has participated in many other private and governmental advisory bodies including a four-year term as a member of the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee (RAC) for the National Institutes of Health.

Current research interests center on global justice with a special focus on environmental challenges arising from the global system of production and distribution of food, energy, and water – a triad of interrelated practical problems of justice that is dubbed the "FEW Problem."

There are two companion book projects in the works. The first one (currently in draft form) is a book with co-author Ruth Faden. It is designed to follow up and extend the theoretical discussion of social justice from the previous book to engage emerging issues in global justice.

The second, longer-term book project aims at a broader audience. It takes as its focus the public regulatory policies and private resource decisions that have the potential to systematically disadvantage many of the planet’s most vulnerable and least powerful people.

The research project related to the FEW Problem proceeds on two additional fronts.

The first front is the website http://www.FEWResources.org/. It contains over 500 entries organized within 36 categories, covering a variety of issues arising out of the global economic and political arrangements pertaining to food, energy, and water. The site is an ongoing project with regular updates, and as of September, 2015, it receives between 10,000-15,000 unique visitors from over 100 countries each month.

The second aspect of the project involves a series of academic papers that concentrate on specific issues of justice pertaining to climate change, the global production of food, and the management of water resources. The overall aim is to show how the production, distribution, and regulation of vital, and increasingly scarce resources affect paths to global development, poverty alleviation, and the capacity of individuals and nations to secure the basic requirements for decent human lives and to preserve sustainable human habitats.

Before his professional career as a philosopher he was a lawyer working primarily in health and environmental law.


  • D. Phil. (1989) University College, Oxford, Philosophy
  • M.A. (1982) Vanderbilt University, Philosophy
  • JD (1974) University of Tennessee,
  • B.A. (1972) Vanderbilt University, History/Political Science