Reparations Within the Rule of Law
20 Pages Posted: 16 Feb 2010
Date Written: February 11, 2010
The debate over monetary reparations for slavery raises a number of questions. One important question is how reparations relate to the Rule of Law. There are two ways in which the Rule of Law impacts the reparations debate. First, reparations might be required under the Rule of Law. Second, they might be counter to the Rule of Law. Either possibility would impact the discussion of reparations.
The answers to these questions will depend on how we view underlying issues about what the Rule of Law is and who defines it. The Rule of Law is an important and widely accepted idea, integral to most understandings of how society interacts with law. At its most basic, the Rule of Law is the idea that laws are equally applied, knowable, and distinct from arbitrary power. The Rule of Law is an imprecisely defined concept, however. There are varying versions of the Rule of Law, and they include different components.
This Essay discusses how slavery may be viewed as a violation of different versions of the Rule of Law. It suggests that if slavery was a breach of the Rule of Law, then reparations are an important way to address that breach. Reparations are a tool to allow the community to repair the damage done to the Rule of Law under slavery. The Essay discusses how reparations fit within the concept of healing under the Rule of Law. Finally, the Essay discusses whether reparations themselves raise Rule of Law concerns.
Keywords: slavery, reparations, rule of law
JEL Classification: K10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation