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Justice for the Past


Among the most controversial issues in the United States is the question of whether public or private agencies should adopt preferential treatment programs or be required to pay reparations for slavery. Using a carefully reasoned philosophical approach, Stephen Kershnar argues that programs such as affirmative action and calls for slavery reparations are unjust for three reasons. First, the state has a duty to direct resources to those persons who, through their abilities, will benefit most from them. Second, he argues that, in the case of slavery, past injustice--where both the victims and perpetrators are long dead--cannot ground current claims to compensation. As terrible as slavery was, those who claim a right to compensation today owe their existence to it, he reasons, and since the events that bring about a person's existence are normally thought to be beneficial, past injustices do not warrant compensation. Finally, even if past injustices were allowed to serve as the basis of compensation in the present, other variables prevent a reasonable estimation of the amount owed.

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Tags: slavery, programs, argues, reparations, persons, Justice, philosophical