Responsible Citizens, Irresponsible States: Should Citizens Pay for Their States' Wrongdoings?

Oxford University Press (2021)
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"International and domestic laws commonly hold states responsible for their wrongdoings. States pay compensation for their unjust wars, and reparations for their historical wrongdoings. Some argue that states should incur punitive damages for their international crimes. But there is a troubling aspect to these practices: States are corporate agents, comprised of flesh and blood citizens. When the state uses the public purse to finance its corporate liabilities, the burden falls on these citizens, even if they protested against the state's policies, did not know about them, or entirely lacked channels of political influence. How can this "distributive effect" of state-level responsibly be justified? The book develops an answer to this question, which revolves around citizens' participation in their state. It argues that citizenship can be a type of massive collective action, where citizens willingly orient themselves around the authority of their state, and where state policies are the product of this collective action. While most ordinary citizens are not to blame for their participation in their state, they nevertheless ought to accept a share of the remedial obligations that flow from their state's wrongful policies. However, the distributive effect cannot be justified in all states. Specifically, in non-democratic states most citizens are not participating in their state in the full sense, and should not pay for their state's wrongdoings. This finding calls then for a revision of the way we hold states responsible in both the domestic and international levels"--



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