Reparations as Redistribution
73 Pages Posted: 3 Sep 2004
Most proponents of slavery reparations seem to have in mind a program that includes substantial redistribution of resources from whites to blacks within the U.S. This Article takes seriously the idea of slavery reparations as a program of redistribution. The Article, therefore, has a normative component in that it offers a new justification for some degree of racial redistribution, a justification that takes into account distributive justice concerns as well as efficiency concerns. The argument, in brief, is that, since race strongly correlates with differences in well-being, is relatively immutable (or at least not a function of work/leisure choices), and is relatively observable, a program of racial redistribution can have the properties of a distributively just lump-sum transfer. There are, of course, reasonably strong arguments to be made against doing any redistribution by race. Those arguments are also discussed in the Article. As to the questions of precisely how much racial redistribution their ought to be, what forms such redistribution should take, and whether the types of racial redistribution that we already have (via targeted spending programs and prohibitions against statistical discrimination as well as through race-based affirmative-action programs) are sufficient, the Article provides no answers. It does, however, suggest some of the general types of programs that should be considered and the criteria for evaluating them. Moreover, what is most relevant for the current debate over slavery reparations, I suggest that the slavery reparations debate would be improved if more attention were given to these distributive justice, efficiency, and policy-design issues.
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