Reparations = racial socialism

In a recent op-ed piece, the New York Times’ resident faux conservative, David Brooks, announced -- surprise! -- that he has changed his mind on the issue of slavery reparations.

“Nearly five years ago,” said Brooks, “I read Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Atlantic article “The Case for Reparations,” with mild disagreement. All sorts of practical objections leapt to mind.

“What about the recent African immigrants? What about the poor whites who have nothing of what you would call privilege? Do we pay Oprah and LeBron?”

Valid questions all -- and none of which Brooks even attempts to address.

It just “seems right” now, he says.

“Reparations are a drastic policy and hard to execute,” he admits, “but the very act of talking about and designing them heals a wound and opens a new story.”

Just like the Green New Deal, this utopian scheme is defended as a “conversation” starter, thus avoiding the humdrum necessity of actually considering the specifics of the issue.

One person who has thought about the reparations in a concrete way is Ryan McMaken of the free-market Mises Institute.

The debate over reparations, writes McMaken, “offers little more than an opportunity for pundits and activists to grandstand on related issues such as poverty and race -- while avoiding the central topic at hand.”

Justice demands the payment of reparations to the victims of a crime, McMaken notes, but only when the actual criminal is identified.

Thomas Sowell makes a similar point in his book The Quest for Cosmic Justice [p. 32]:

“[T]hose people who were torn from their homes in Africa in centuries past and forcibly brought across the Atlantic in chains suffered not only horribly but unjustly. Were they and their captors still alive the reparations and retribution owed would be staggering. Time and death, however, cheat us of such opportunities for justice, however galling that may be. We can, of course, create new injustices among our flesh-and-blood contemporaries for the sake of symbolic expiation, so that the son or daughter of a black doctor or executive can get into an elite college ahead of the son or daughter of a white factory worker or farmer, but only believers in the vision of cosmic justice are likely to take moral solace from that. We can only make our choices among alternatives actually available, and rectifying the past is not one of those options.”

Reparations would not only require payments from the descendants of those who owned slaves several generations ago but would also demand payments from, among others, the descendants of: (1) people who never owned slaves, (2) people who arrived in this country long after emancipation, (3) abolitionists, and (4) Northerners who fought in the Civil War.

This can only be justified by invoking collective guilt. And Brooks, who somehow is still being referred to by the media as “conservative” or “center-right,” has no problem with that.

According to Brooks:

“Slavery doesn’t merely cause pain and suffering to the slave. It is a corruption that infects the whole society. It is a collective debt that will have to be paid.”

The notion of “collective debt”, however, requires that we believe “everyone” is guilty. This claim, McMaken notes, “is in fact, is one invented by the slaveowners themselves in an attempt to claim that all Americans --- including people who claimed to oppose slavery --- somehow directly benefited from slavery, and thus all abolitionists were hypocrites.”

It is an unconvincing argument. True justice requires that we identify specific victims and specific perpetrators of a crime.  Anything short of that and the policy is simply another socialist scheme to redistribute wealth.

You can follow Nicholas J. Kaster on Twitter.

In a recent op-ed piece, the New York Times’ resident faux conservative, David Brooks, announced -- surprise! -- that he has changed his mind on the issue of slavery reparations.

“Nearly five years ago,” said Brooks, “I read Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Atlantic article “The Case for Reparations,” with mild disagreement. All sorts of practical objections leapt to mind.

“What about the recent African immigrants? What about the poor whites who have nothing of what you would call privilege? Do we pay Oprah and LeBron?”

Valid questions all -- and none of which Brooks even attempts to address.

It just “seems right” now, he says.

“Reparations are a drastic policy and hard to execute,” he admits, “but the very act of talking about and designing them heals a wound and opens a new story.”

Just like the Green New Deal, this utopian scheme is defended as a “conversation” starter, thus avoiding the humdrum necessity of actually considering the specifics of the issue.

One person who has thought about the reparations in a concrete way is Ryan McMaken of the free-market Mises Institute.

The debate over reparations, writes McMaken, “offers little more than an opportunity for pundits and activists to grandstand on related issues such as poverty and race -- while avoiding the central topic at hand.”

Justice demands the payment of reparations to the victims of a crime, McMaken notes, but only when the actual criminal is identified.

Thomas Sowell makes a similar point in his book The Quest for Cosmic Justice [p. 32]:

“[T]hose people who were torn from their homes in Africa in centuries past and forcibly brought across the Atlantic in chains suffered not only horribly but unjustly. Were they and their captors still alive the reparations and retribution owed would be staggering. Time and death, however, cheat us of such opportunities for justice, however galling that may be. We can, of course, create new injustices among our flesh-and-blood contemporaries for the sake of symbolic expiation, so that the son or daughter of a black doctor or executive can get into an elite college ahead of the son or daughter of a white factory worker or farmer, but only believers in the vision of cosmic justice are likely to take moral solace from that. We can only make our choices among alternatives actually available, and rectifying the past is not one of those options.”

Reparations would not only require payments from the descendants of those who owned slaves several generations ago but would also demand payments from, among others, the descendants of: (1) people who never owned slaves, (2) people who arrived in this country long after emancipation, (3) abolitionists, and (4) Northerners who fought in the Civil War.

This can only be justified by invoking collective guilt. And Brooks, who somehow is still being referred to by the media as “conservative” or “center-right,” has no problem with that.

According to Brooks:

“Slavery doesn’t merely cause pain and suffering to the slave. It is a corruption that infects the whole society. It is a collective debt that will have to be paid.”

The notion of “collective debt”, however, requires that we believe “everyone” is guilty. This claim, McMaken notes, “is in fact, is one invented by the slaveowners themselves in an attempt to claim that all Americans --- including people who claimed to oppose slavery --- somehow directly benefited from slavery, and thus all abolitionists were hypocrites.”

It is an unconvincing argument. True justice requires that we identify specific victims and specific perpetrators of a crime.  Anything short of that and the policy is simply another socialist scheme to redistribute wealth.

You can follow Nicholas J. Kaster on Twitter.