The Concise Guide To Economics
by Jim Cox
31. Justice, Property Rights and Inheritance
If property which is justly acquired is later stolen, the corrective action is for that property to be returned to the owner from the thief, with additional compensation from the thief for the aggravation and effort of recovering it.
If the original owner should die before the property is returned, does this change the corrective action? No. The property should be returned to his heirs just as never-stolen property is passed to his heirs.
Does this conclusion change if there are numerous generations? Again, the answer is no, for the principle is the same.
What if the thief has died or has sold the stolen property, is the corrective action altered? No, the property still should be returned to the original owners or his heirs, regardless. (It should be noted that this is the very reason for title insurance which is so common in real estate transactions.)
Now we can apply this theory to an actual issue--reparations to Blacks due to slavery.
Were the slaves victims of theft? Yes, of both their liberties and their production. Therefore, the corrective action is for the slaveowner to restore the property to the slave with compensation for the aggravation and the effort of recovery.
What if the slaveowner has died? Then his heirs have received stolen goods which should be returned to the slaves, again regardless of the number of generations which have passed.
What if the slave has died? Then the stolen goods should be returned to the slave's heirs, again, regardless of the number of generations which have passed.
Does this theory conclude that a victim of theft has the right to loot innocent bystanders? The answer is no, for that would be to further compound the original injustice. A victim has no claim on humanity at large if property is unrecoverable because it cannot be traced or if the thief has died and left nothing to reappropriate, nor does the slave victim and his heirs. (Buyers who unknowingly purchase stolen goods can be protected in the market by title insurance.)
There is no need, nor justification, for a collective payment of reparations; only the wealth identifiable as being stolen should be subject to the claims of the identifiable heirs of slaves, nothing less, but nothing more, either.