February, 2022

Reparations to the Privileged?

  • Brian Kogelmann

    Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Maryland
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Many believe that we owe reparations to groups who suffered significant injustice in the past. Oftentimes, groups who suffered historical injustice are not very well off today, especially when compared to the groups who imposed the injustice on them. However, in some cases, groups who suffered historical injustice are better off today than the groups who imposed the injustice on them. Under these circumstances, ought the now-better-off group who suffered historical injustice receive reparations from the now-worse-off group who were historical oppressors? Many will think not. Problematically, most of our current theories of reparations, I demonstrate, imply that worse-off groups must pay reparations to better-off groups, if the worse-off group committed a serious injustice against the better-off group in the past. Those theories that avoid this conclusion do so only by severely limiting when reparations are owed generally, leading them to counterintuitive results in more ordinary cases.