Hi Neil,

I don't know of any serious ethicist or academic in general who would accept the reasoning that you criticize here. You have academic training, right? So you value expertise. I have expertise the field of ethics. So, if I may, here's a much better thought experiment.
(Quick preliminary: I totally reject the notion of collective moral responsibility. But even those who embrace collective moral responsibility don't reason in the way you've just described. I'm referring to experts, of course--not random Twitter people.
Also, complaints about institutional injustice needn't have anything to do with collective moral responsibility--they're totally separate issues that you appear to be conflating. Incidentally, I dwell on expertise because it's a point of emphasis in your Twitter profile.)
So, anyway, here's a *good* example. Suppose @martyduren steals $15K from you. (Sorry, Marty.) So Marty is $15K in your debt, plus let's say that the penalty for stealing = X. (X could be prison time or fines or what have you.)
Suppose further that the police never catch Marty and you never recover the $15K that he owes you. Now imagine that Marty dies, leaving his entire estate--including *your* $15K--to his children. (Sorry again, Marty.)
I deny that Marty's children must pay penalty X, whatever that may be. But I believe that Marty's children owe you $15K. Wouldn't you agree?
OK, now imagine that you die, leaving your entire estate to your children. (Sorry, Neil.) I'd say that Marty's children owe your children $15K. Wouldn't you agree? (Even Robert Nozick, Rawls's most prodigious libertarian interlocutor, would agree to this much.)
Notice that the penalty of X dies with Marty. But the $15K debt transfers from one generation to the next. Why? Because it's a tangible benefit that rightfully belongs to your children, not Marty's children. Agreed?
Now, here's a more salient example. Imagine that my grandparents had access to a federally subsidized mortgage in 1960. (The subsidy comes in the form of insurance cover for the lender in case of default.) This subsidy is paid by taxpayers, including *your* grandparents.
But suppose that *your* grandparents weren't eligible for the same government-backed mortgage. The reason? Their skin color. So my grandparents get a mortgage and your grandparents don't.
Since this mortgage insurance is funded by *all* taxpayers, including your grandparents, this means that my grandparents received a subsidy from your grandparents (via the U.S. government), without even the possibility of being required to compensate your grandparents in return.
Consequently, my grandparents (like 90% of Americans generally) accumulated and transferred wealth to my parents via home equity, backed by U.S. taxpayers like your grandparents. But your grandparents didn't do this, because they weren't allowed.
I, in turn, receive an inheritance from my parents, etc. And you don't--there's no inheritance for you to receive. Does this make sense, Neil? The point isn't that I'm bad because laws in the 1960s were bad. This has nothing to do with individual (or collective) piety.
Rather, the point is that bad laws reverberate into the future, in the form of tangible benefits that people either do or don't have in the present day. Is this making sense, Neil? Let me know if you have questions.
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