Yesterday Ben Stein posted an article at The American Spectator which discussed some of the issues dealing with the idea of reparations. He points out a few basic facts that need to be considered in discussing the idea.
The article notes:
Slavery was so hideous a crime and caused so much pain and suffering that something should be done about it. But we face a lot of problems in the concept of reparations. For one thing, there were a fair number of black people who emancipated themselves through superhumanly hard work, then used their savings to buy slaves. How do we assess their liability?
For another, the conditions of slaves varied wildly. Some were house servants and lived halfway decent lives. Others worked like myrmidons in sugar cane fields and were literally whipped to death if they faltered. How do we account for this kind of difference in degree of suffering?
For yet another, some moved north immediately and led barely normal lives as did their children and grandchildren. Others stayed in the deep south and were subject to every kind of humiliation. How do we compare how much these two different groups are owed? If a black person voluntarily stayed in a horrible Jim Crow environment, what should be his progeny’s measure of damages as compared with that of the offspring of black people who moved to Des Moines?
Also, there is a chain of causation in many cases. One black tribe attacked and captured others then the captors sold their slaves to Arab slave traders who then sold the slaves to New England slave brokers.
…Also, who would be taxed for the reparations? The great majority of white Americans never owned any slaves. Why should they be taxed? The present population of America is by a wide margin the scions of Poles and Czechs and Italians and Chinese and Jews who never owned any slaves at all. Why should they be taxed at all for reparations?
Reparations sounds good to those who believe they might receive money, but the idea bears a strong resemblance to George McGovern’s campaign promise in 1972 that if elected he would give every American $1,000 (in 1972 that was real money). We all know how that campaign promise worked out–he lost forty-nine states. At any rate, the promise of free money to those who feel they are entitled to what other people earn has long been a staple of some politicians. What all Americans need to realize is that the government has no money of its own–any money it gives away is taken from someone who earned it.