Environmental Philosophy, Lecture nine
Certain injustices have been committed historically, both concerning environmental issues and otherwise. In these situations, we often have a causer, a beneficiary and a victim. One might want to day that the victims of the injustice deserve reparations, but claiming such a thing results in many questions.
- Who ought to pay?
- Who ought to be Payed?
- How much ought one to be paid?
And many more. Differing answers to these questions lead to different principles.
The Causal account
The causal account states that the causer(s) of the injustice ought to pay the victims. This principle has great trouble accounting for causers who are no longer alive.
The beneficiary account
The beneficiary account states that the beneficiary(s) of the injustice ought to pay. This account also encounters issues, primarily, since the beneficiary did not cause any harm, they have no connection to the wrongdoing.
This account states that the causer ought to ray reparations to the victim while alive. If the causer is dead, then the duty to pay falls to the beneficiary. This account seems odd to say the least, there is seemingly no connection that would transfer the duty to pay at the moment of death of the causer.
Furthermore, in all beneficiary accounts, we still encounter the intergenerational problem. Primarily, can we say that people benefit from wrongs committed on the past? To say that someone is better off is to say that someone had been worse off had the injustice not been committed. But what happens when without the injustice, the current “beneficiary” had never been born. Is a state of existence preferable over a non-existent one?
Even if this issue is resolved and one argues that one is better off existing rather than not existing, we still encounter problems. One significant problem is that we cannot successfully argue that people have benefited from past wrongs.
Perhaps then we should drop the reparations view all together. An example of a no-reparations view could be one where those who have the means have a duty to help those in need.