The case for eugenics compensation

From a John Locke Foundation memo:

There are few government actions more abhorrent than using the power of the state to sterilize citizens deemed “unfit to reproduce” by some government council or bureaucrat.

When government violates the rights of individuals, justice requires that they be compensated for their loss. The longer we wait, the more victims will pass away without receiving their just compensation.

Why the current proposal makes sense:

  • Compensation would be limited to living victims of forced sterilization. It addresses wrongs that occurred to North Carolinians — because of the actions of North Carolina state government — within our lifetimes.
  • The proposal does not cover descendants of eugenics victims. It was designed carefully not to open the door to more costly and controversial ideas like slavery reparations.
  • This discrete program, targeting a specific action North Carolina government took against the individual rights of specific, identifiable people, does not pave the way for some wide-ranging effort to right every wrong from the past four centuries of American history.
  • The amount of compensation is reasonable. It is in line with other government programs that have compensated people for wrongs government has committed against them in the past, such as wrongful conviction and imprisonment.
  • The number of people eligible to participate in the program is limited and will not expand. Only those living people forcibly sterilized by the state of North Carolina before the eugenics program ended in the 1970s ever can be eligible.

For more information, see:

Daren Bakst’s January 2012 JLF Spotlight report, “Compensating NC’s Eugenics Victims: Five Ways North Carolina Can Help Right The Wrong.”

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

Reader Comments