Rectification and Historic Injustice

In Matt Zwolinski & Benjamin Ferguson (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Libertarianism. Routledge. pp. 427-440 (2022)
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Abstract

This chapter surveys libertarian thought on the question of “historic injustice,” which is when serious injustice goes unresolved for many years. After some historical discussion of early libertarian writing on the subject, I turn to the contemporary debate surrounding reparations for slavery. After outlining three arguments common among libertarians for reparations, common reasons for skepticism are also discussed. Then, special focus is given to the topic of land theft. In particular, I hone in on what I call the “Poisoning Problem,” or the idea that natural rights approaches to property fail because so much of actually-existing property is founded in conquest. In the conclusion, I highlight two areas where libertarian writing on historic injustice is relatively quiet compared with broader writing on these topics: reparations of a less material sort and transitional injustice. Throughout this chapter, I typically refer to American slavery and land theft, but the discussion is meant to apply much further than those two cases.

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Jason Byas
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

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