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Adrian Vermeule, Reparations as Rough Justice, 51 Nomos 151 (2012).

Abstract: Philosophers and others have criticized reparations, particularly compensatory cash reparations, on a range of conceptual grounds. I shall attempt to defend reparations programs against these criticisms. The defense is that compensatory reparations programs aspire to do "rough justice" - no less, but no more. Rough justice is the intuition that sometimes it is permissible, even mandatory, to enact a scheme of compensatory reparations that is indefensible according to any first-best principle of justice. Rough justice seems attractive only when compared to no justice at all. The status quo of inaction is also a proposal for a scheme of compensation (set at zero dollars). The status quo thus fares even worse, according to the same criteria that condemn the relevant reparations proposals.