Reparations, Distribution, and Reconstruction


Recall the two strands of justice which pertain to what is owed to whom by whom as a matter of right, and with respect to resource transfers, once the war is over:

Corrective justice. (1) A has taken from B a good g which was in B’s de facto possession. When, if ever is A under a duty to restitute g to B? (2) A has destroyed g. When, if ever, is A under a duty to pay reparations to B for her loss by giving her the equivalent of g and, if B has incurred further harm as a result of A’s act, by making good for that harm?

Distributive justice. (1) A has destroyed g, as a result of which B has incurred further harm. A is unable or unwilling to make good on that loss. When, if ever, is C under a duty to step into the breach and help B? (2) Individuals who were neither party to the war nor affected by it do not have prospects for a flourishing life. When, if ever, is C under a duty to help them, at the expense of failing to meet B’s reparative claim?

In ch. 5, I attended to the restitutive prong of corrective justice. In this chapter, I turn, first, to its second prong—or reparative justice—and, second, to the issue of the just distribution of resources post bellum. Taken together, reparative and distributive principles after war provide a normative theory of reconstruction. I defend the following claims. Strictly speaking, a just peace simpliciter is one in which parties implement what one may call the Reparative Principle:

Reparative Principle—individuals who have violated or justifiably infringed the human rights of some other party in or during war are under a duty to compensate their victims for the wrongs which they have done to them, and to assist in the reconstruction of their community.

The principle is modelled on the simple and intuitively plausible claim that if some party A wrongfully takes or damages something, g, which is in B’s control, A owes B reparations both for the loss of g and for further harms accruing to B as a result of that loss. The Reparative Principle has four important features. First, in keeping with the individualistic premises which underpin my account of war, the rights, duties and liabilities which it stipulates are held by and imposed on individuals. Second, it relies on the possibility of making counterfactual judgements of the kind ‘had A not invaded B, this particular individual member of B would still have his farm, here and now’. Third, the principle mandates the disbursement of material resources. Fourth, under conditions of scarcity, it conflicts with non-reparative, purely distributive demands (as distinct from the distributive demands outlined in the first part of Distributive Justice).

As we shall see in s.6.2, those four features of the principle—its individualistic focus, its reliance on counterfactuals, the financial costs it imposes, and its conflict with distributive justice—together support the charge that implementing it in full in the aftermath of war is simply not feasible, morally and practically speaking. Accordingly, we should partly replace it with what one may call a Reconstruction Principle, which I defend in s.6.3:

Reconstruction Principle—all agents who have been harmed by war are owed

help with the reconstruction of their community, consistent with respecting the

rights of assistance of individuals who were not affected by the war.

The Reconstruction Principle offers a feasible alternative to the Reparative Principle and delineates non-reparative obligations owed both to war participants and to outsiders. Furthermore, endorsing the Reconstruction Principle does not entail jettisoning all talk of reparations—on the contrary. Having fine-tuned both principles in s.6.3, I conclude that a justifiedATC peace—as distinct from a just peace simpliciter— requires implementing the Reconstruction Principle and those elements of the Reparative Principle which survive the obstacles raised by feasibility constrains.

Some caveats before I begin. First, by reparations I mean the disbursement of material resources to make up, as far as possible, for the wrong one has committed. I leave the issue of punitive sanctions until ch. 7, and the issue of non-material reparations such as public apologies until ch. 9. Second, in the literature on justice, what I call reparative justice is often referred to as compensatory justice. But the word ‘reparations’ is more often used in the context of war or mass-scale injustice: accordingly, I will follow extant practice with respect to the noun, but use the verb ‘to compensate’ interchangeably with ‘to pay reparations’. Third, classifying the second question above as pertaining to distributive justice—as opposed to reparative justice under conditions of non-compliance—might seem odd, since distributive justice (some might hold) only remedies non-anthropogenic needs or inequalities. Yet, defences of the welfare state, whose remit is both those who are made wrongfully needy and those who are made needy through natural causes, fall within the remit of distributive justice. I see no reason therefore not to conceive of assistance which is owed by bystanders to war victims as falling within the remit of distributive justice.

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