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Disgorging the Fruits of Historical Wrongdoing



There are many different ways of responding to wrongdoing: person-centered or object-centered, victim-centered or perpetrator-centered, and fault-oriented or not. Among these approaches, requiring innocent beneficiaries to disgorge the fruits of historical wrongdoings of others is attractive because it is informationally the least demanding. Although that approach is perhaps not ideal, at least it is feasible where other responses are not, and doing something is better than doing nothing in response to grievous historical wrongdoing. Depending on circumstances, disgorgement can be in whole or in part, in kind or in cash. Even without the full information that disgorgement itself requires, general redistributive taxation might be justified as a tolerably close approximation.


Corresponding author

Robert E. Goodin is Professor of Government, University of Essex, Colchester CO4 3SQ, UK ( and Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200 Australia (


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