30 September 2014

Reparations for Slavery?

Having addressed Atlantic editor Ta-Nehisi Coates' wish for reparations for red-lining, we now turn to another of his claims: That descendents of U.S. slaves deserve cash payouts for their forebears' suffering.

There is the question of both a) the legitimacy and b) the practicality of such a scheme. We shall only discuss the former, because if it is truly worthwhile, the latter can always be worked out.

Poring through Coates' 17-page article, we have guessed that he objects to U.S. chattel slavery on the following grounds:  1) Its very existence was unconscionable, 2) It was unusually inhumane, 3) It destroyed the Afro family, and 4) It helped create the large black-white wealth gap we see today.

We shall address his points one by one.

I. The very existence of U.S. slavery was unconscionable

One main thrust of Coates' argument for slavery reparations is that the institution itself was somehow anomalous--'cruel and unusual,' to use our founders' words.  Cruel it may have been in the hands of cruel masters, but unusual it assuredly was not.  Looking back, it's harder to find societies that don't practice slavery than those that do.  As soon as we rose above subsistence level, it seems we start coercing each other into labor.