The libertarian argument for reparations

Journal of Social Philosophy:1-30 (2024)
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The case for reparations for grievous acts of historical injustice has been getting a lot of attention lately. But I aim to broaden the discussion in two ways. First, I am not only going to talk about reparations as a means of rectifying the injuries inflicted by slavery and the genocide of indigenous peoples, the theft of their land, and the ongoing ripple effects of these historic wrongs. I am also going to talk about reparations for a wider variety of historical injustices, including, most importantly, the long-term economic oppression of women, and the historical exploitation of labor. Second, I am not going to base my argument on the principle of equality, as most people currently do, but on the principle of liberty, as it is understood by libertarians on both the right and the left, at least as long as they believe what they say they believe. Not because I think that egalitarian demands for reparations are wrong. Rather, my point is that the principle of liberty, which is often raised as a defense to claims based on the principle of equality, actually leads to exactly the same place. Finally, I will discuss one possible form of reparations that has largely been ignored, but which has a special connection to libertarian principles, and I will show how it can provide some real relief without provoking the opposition that society-wide redistributive remedies usually face.

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Mark R. Reiff
University of California, Davis

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References found in this work

Justice as fairness: a restatement.John Rawls (ed.) - 2001 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Anarchy, State, and Utopia.Robert Nozick - 1974 - Philosophy 52 (199):102-105.
Coercion.Robert Nozick - 1969 - In White Morgenbesser (ed.), Philosophy, Science, and Method: Essays in Honor of Ernest Nagel. St Martin's Press. pp. 440--72.

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