Reparations from historical slavery could be used to end modern slavery

Source: Center for a Stateless Society
by Vishal Wilde

"One of the most emotive and difficult topics in contemporary discourse is the history of slavery and its lingering legacy. A common proposal for addressing slavery is reparations, or compensatory payment to the descendants of Africans who had been enslaved as part of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. The arguments for reparations are regularly met with two difficulties — firstly, upon whom does the responsibility of payment fall and, secondly, how can we identify the descendants of slaves with absolute certainty? I briefly examine each of these difficulties before proposing that some form of reparations can (and should) be paid but, due to the second difficulty, these reparations should be earmarked for ending modern slavery." (08/10/17)

  • dL

    Seize all government property and disperse the proceeds to those w/ legitimate claims of grievance.

  • R R Schoettker

    "… that some form of reparations can (and should) be paid…"

    Yet more "two wrongs make a right" nonsense. If you want to end the perpetration of evil, try ending it's primary source, end the State!

    • dL

      Just to note: there is a long tradition in libertarianism of a rectification principle re: unjust holdings. This piece, however, is not one of the more convincing ones in that tradition.

      • R R Schoettker

        I would note that not only is this present argument not "one of the more convincing" but that it is completely spurious to any just rectification principle. Neither any of the wronged individuals nor any of the guilty perpetrators of "historical slavery" exist to be the the recipients or subjects of any current 'restitution' (sic) and the concept of blood guilt ( or an even more collectivist cultural guilt) is not one that has, or should have, any place in a legitimate libertarian tradition.

        • I'm going to play devil's advocate here, RR.

          Suppose you have a gold bar, and I steal it from you. Then you die and your heir doesn't get the gold bar because I stole it. Then I die and pass the gold bar on to my heir. And that cycle repeats, say, five times.

          Who does the gold bar actually belong to?

          • R R Schoettker

            An interesting hypothetical question that I will try and give a personal response to at the end of my comment but one that is superfluous, in my opinion, to the question being addressed in the original post. That one dealt with a wrong committed against the human rights of individuals, not a theft of their property. We have argued about this in the past but I will reiterate that I draw a distinction between inherent and inalienable natural rights and the derivative ones attributable to physical things or chattel ("property" in my personal lexicon) . Human beings are NOT property and situations in the past (or present) that may have erroneously treated them as if they were can not be justly or properly dealt with in those terms. No true or just "restitution" can be made to a violation of natural right by any monetary or other "property" substitution and especially when both the perpetrators and victims of the actual wrong are both deceased which precludes personal restitution..

            In answer to your hypothetical about stolen property, I would say that since in the specific circumstances that you postulate there would be a clear legal trail of disposition by will to heirs that if the fact of the original theft was also a provable fact then the gold would be still the property of the original victim of the theft.

            I believe Rothbard tried to address situations where the factual provability of original ownership or the validity of subsequent possession after multiple generations had passed without certain verification should just be re-grounded in a possession is ownership state. While this is not specifically rooted in right or justice I have not pondered the matter philosophically myself in sufficient degree to suggest a superior alternative.

          • RR,

            I certainly agree with you that there's no "clear legal trail of disposition." Many of the descendants of the slave owners no longer own property pertinent to the relationship, and a lot of people are descendants of BOTH owners and slaves or NEITHER owners nor slaves. It's a mess that could never be untangled.

            But as far as restitution is concerned, there was particular property tied to the violations of rights. The slaves were forced to "mix their labor" with particular parcels of land, while their putative owners got the formal title to that land and the benefits of working it.

            I don't know that "40 acres and a mule" would have worked, but I would have been fine with "restitution" at the time in the form of:

            Hey, plantation owner, you can keep your house — but that 500 acres that you had 500 slaves working? Guess what, that's THEIR land — they're the ones who mixed their labor with it and have a rightful claim to it and they're each taking a one-acre lot. They also get to split (or sell and split the proceeds of) the equipment and livestock they were forced to use while you pretended to own them.

          • R R Schoettker

            Probably just as well that you ignored my distinction between rights and "property" as past discussions have indicated the fruitlessness of debate on that score.

            I would have been on board with your delineation of restitution made at the time between the actual wronged by the actual perpetrators. I will only add that the limitation of such restitution to ONLY the southern plantation owners and conveniently absolving the northern slave owners and especially their primary role in supplying the slave trade from Africa is a glaring omission. In my mind the primary reason that no attempt was made for a "just" restitution after emancipation is that in the universally racist tenor of the time the only one likely to be enacted by the State would probably have been to recompense the slave owners for the loss of their "property" (sic).