Sharing the Costs of Political Injustices
It is commonly thought that when democratic states act wrongly, they should bear the costs of the harm they cause. However, since states are collective agents, their financial burdens pass on to their individual citizens. This fact raises important questions about the proper distribution of the state's collective responsibility for its unjust policies. This article identifies two opposing models for sharing this collective responsibility in democracies: first, in proportion to citizens’ personal association with the unjust policy; second, by giving each citizen an equal share of the costs. Proportional distribution is compatible with the principle of fairness. And yet, both in the literature and in political praxis we find many supporters for the equal sharing of the costs of unjust policies in democracies. How can equal distribution be defended on normative grounds? This article develops a defense that is grounded in citizens’ associative obligations. I argue that, at least in some democracies, one of the intrinsic values of the civic bond revolves around the joint formation and execution of worthy political goals. This social good generates the political associative obligation to accept an equal distribution of the costs of unjust policies.
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