Affirmative Action performs acts of “corrective justice.” Public policy is used to compensate members of a deprived group for prior losses and for gains unfairly achieved by others that resulted from prior governmental action. Corrective justice, the legal philosopher Jules Coleman has noted, is different from a fair allocation of goods. Rather, it identifies interventions which remedy previously unjust decisions that made existing patterns of distribution even more unfair than they otherwise would have been. When is such justice legitimate? How far can its remedies be extended, and on what basis? Can affirmative action as it presently exists, as well as a more inclusive affirmative action, rely on the same principles? How and when can they take race into account?
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