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A Progressive Political Agenda for Slave Reparations

March 15, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Slavery is evil. Virtually every American believes that. Even
most foreigners, other than a few ISIS fighters who now are
enduring the great beyond, almost certainly bereft of the 72
virgins they were expecting. However, there was a time when most of
humankind accepted the practice. Even those ever so civilized
Greeks and Romans, upon whose thought much of modern civilization
rests, enjoyed lives made more comfortable by the labor of those in
bondage.

Which means much of humanity is descended either from those who
were slaves or who owned slaves. Few nations evolved untouched by
the practice. Go back to the beginning of time and virtually
everyone alive today probably should receive or pay – and perhaps
both simultaneously – reparations. There is a lot of ancient
injustice to redistribute.

But that’s hard to do at either the global or the national
level. All those responsible for enslaving people far and wide are
dead. All those who bought and sold people are but dust. All those
who established legal codes allowing human chattel are long gone.
Not a single perpetrator stands among us, ready to atone for his or
her sins. (Other than those responsible for the occasional case of
illegal captivity and coercion today.)

Reparations might be good
Democratic politics, but it is bad policy and fake
justice.

By the same token, there are no former slaves left among us.
Millions upon millions lived and died as property. Most have
disappeared without a trace. A few survive as faces in old
photographs and names on old gravestones. However, they are well
beyond our help today.

It is worth noting that timing matters. There was a moment when
reparations were possible and justifiable. But it passed quickly.
That is when slaves were freed. Surely they were owed for their
forced “service.” However, to have asserted such a
claim likely would have prevented or at least delayed their
release.

The Civil War overcame that difficulty by forcibly ending the
practice. So-called Radical Republicans advocated redistributing
land of former masters to freedmen. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman
even settled former slaves on 40-acre plots of confiscated land.
However, such limited steps were soon swept away by the politics of
Reconstruction, when most seized lands were returned to their
previous owners.

What to do today? Americans should have learned long ago that
they cannot save the world. Fixing their own nation is hard enough,
Moreover, rather than focusing on injustices of the past, our
challenge today is to address unfair social and political
practices, which prevent far too many people from taking advantage
of manifold opportunities created by a generally wealthy and free
society. Although we …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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