Fair Play and Wrongful Benefits

In: Journal of Moral Philosophy
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According to the fair play defense of political obligations citizens have a reciprocity-based duty to share the costs involved in the production of public goods. But sometimes, states produce collective goods through wrongdoing. For example, sometimes states’ wrongful immigration policies can contribute to the welfare of their own populations. Do citizens have duties of reciprocity in light of such wrongful benefits? I argue that the answer to this question is negative. Drawing on the observation that beneficiaries of wrongdoing incur compensatory duties to the victims of that wrongdoing, I argue that, rather than having a duty of reciprocity for wrongful benefits, citizens have a duty to disgorge the benefits in compensation. Furthermore, the fair play defense of political obligations entails that citizens can be justified in disobeying the law in order to comply with their compensatory duties to victims of their state’s wrongdoing.

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