Historical rights and fair shares

Law and Philosophy 14 (2):149 - 184 (1995)
My aim of this paper is to clarify, and in a certain very limited way to defend, historical theories of property rights (and their associated theories of social or distributive justice). It is important, I think, to better understand historical rights for several reasons: first, because of the extent to which historical theories capture commonsense, unphilosophical views about property and justice; then, because historical theories have fallen out of philosophical fashion, and are consequently not much scrutinized anymore; and finally, because of (what I see as) the continuing need to better understand the historical components of our society's responsibilities to the descendants of victims of systematic injustice in our own past. The case I will have in mind throughout is that of the property claims of Native American tribes, claims based on their historical standing as the original owners of certain lands and resources. And while I will concentrate here only on the question of rectifying past violations of property rights, this will constitute at least a start to answering more general questions about just rectification, which includes the more serious and less compensable wrongs of violence against persons.
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