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UN Report: The US owes reparations to black Americans for slavery

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Gary Childress, Oct 6, 2016.

  1. Lexicus

    Lexicus Deity

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    The same moral principle that says it's wrong to have slaves whose descendants are also slaves, and to have serfs whose descendants are also serfs, and lords whose descendants are also lords.
     
  2. Lexicus

    Lexicus Deity

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    At an earlier period than the end of the war.
     
  3. Camikaze

    Camikaze Administrator Administrator

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    That's an interesting answer. Just so that I can pinpoint the precise objection you have, here's a hypothetical - let's say person A steals person B's car. It's a theft, pure and simple.

    1) Say person A dies and their child inherits the car. Does the child have to give it back to person B, or would that be punishing the child for the sin of their ancestor?
    2) Say person A doesn't die, but person B does. Does the child of person B get to claim the car back from person A, or would that be rewarding the child for a wrong that they did not suffer?
    3) Say both person A and person B die. Does the child of person B get to claim the car back from the child of person A, or would that involve both punishment and reward of the relevant sort?
     
  4. Timsup2nothin

    Timsup2nothin Quad B

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    4) Say person C bought the car from person A. Do they have to give the car to person B?
    5) What if person A wrecked the car?
    6) What if person A used the car to deliver pizzas, then used their tips and bought a winning lottery ticket?
     
  5. Synsensa

    Synsensa Deity Retired Moderator

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    Are you willing to give up what you have in your life because your great-great-grandfather might have done something negative against another?

    1) The child would not inherit the car as Person A does not possess legal registration or proof of ownership of the vehicle. It would be returned to Person B or reclaimed by local government for auction or scrapping.

    2) If the child has proof... sure. Maybe. I'm not sure on the legal precedent for this.

    3) I'm a little unclear on the legal precedent on this as well, but I don't think either child would get to claim the car once it was determined the car was stolen and that both the criminal who stole it and the victim it was stolen from have died.

    Answering your hypothetical does highlight a point that I think I didn't do a good enough job in conveying. Your questions are based on the assumption that at least one generation in the equation is alive during the implied crime/aggression. If someone is alive during what happened, reparation/reallocative justice is fine in my eyes. Even in your Nazi artwork example I could be swayed to being okay with it, because presumably the people who are fighting for ownership are people who were alive when it happened. My main point on the subject of reparations over slavery is that nobody alive today was alive during when slavery was legal and widely practiced. You're paying reparations to people who didn't suffer the oppression directly. They might be suffering from the after-effects but that's a different problem that isn't remotely addressed by a reparation act.

    So... the moral principle that's already been enacted? We wouldn't be having a conversation about reparations over slavery a century and a half ago if your proposed wrongness were still a factor in today's society. I'm happy to report that the slaves in the early 1800s are not slaves today and that none of the feudal serfs are serfs today either.
     
  6. Synsensa

    Synsensa Deity Retired Moderator

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    Not at all, your post clearly said "you" and that if you didn't correct past grievances, you were selfish. So, would you give up what you have because someone in your family's past might have done something wrong?

    It's easy to say the government should do something but a democratic government enacts and utilizes the resources and convictions of its people.
     
  7. Timsup2nothin

    Timsup2nothin Quad B

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    You left out that person C could be jailed for possession of stolen property. Which is sort of the problem. Somebody buys a car, or a watch, or a houseplant and unwittingly commits a crime we have provisions to not only right the wrong but outright punish them. Yet start suggesting that people who benefit from the stealing of peoples' lives and liberty should be in any way inconvenienced and people lose their minds.
     
  8. tetley

    tetley Head tea leaf

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    This goes beyond statute of limitations. This is ex post facto. The UN did not even exist when slavery did.
     
  9. Synsensa

    Synsensa Deity Retired Moderator

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    Nothing directly, I'm not a North American. I just live here. Reparations for Native Americans are widely agreed upon to be neglected, wasteful, and horrifically mismanaged. What's more is that reparation programs have been in place for natives for well over a century, dealing with less than 3 million people across the US in total. 45% of reparations go to funding administration and offices while only 55% reaches intended consumption. The amount budgeted is regularly reduced. It's a bad example.

    Enacting reparations for those descended from slave lineage would be a laughably high amount. There's been enough generations since slavery was abolished to make a majority of the US have "slave blood" in them. How do you determine who deserves reparations? Just the ones who look suitably black enough? A lot of white people today, going back enough generations, probably had a slave mother or slave father. So you'd need to study everyone's genealogy and family tree, trying to match it up to known slaves and slave owners from the old days.

    So let's assume we're cutting out the race-mixed people. We'll just pay reparations to black families who were black back then and are black today. A conservative estimate is that there are at least 40 million people the US government would need to pay reparations to. The US is not running at a surplus. Let's say we give each descendant a proper education free of charge ($40,000 each), a living stipend for the course of that education ($25,000 for 4 years, each), and a lump sum payment of $100,000 afterwards. That's more money than exists in circulation around the entire planet. So what sort of reparations do you suggest we give 40 million people, starting today, that would mean anything to them and their future well-being, and would come at no cost to you?
     
  10. Arwon

    Arwon

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    Eh, it's about 10 trillion dollars (40,000,000 x 240,000 = 9,600,000,000,000 = 9.6 trillion dollars) spread across an unspecified number of years but at least least five years ($35k, $35k, $35k, $35k, $100k). Realistically, this Reparations New Deal would be staggered over more years because people are different ages (somewhere around 12 million of the 40 million would be currently under 18). So that's, at most, about 2 trillion a year across each of five years. Maybe more like 1.5 trillion in the first five years, with a longer tail.

    A significant chunk of this hypothetical expenditure is already being spent on education and income support through state, local and federal budgets. US governments collectively spend 1 trillion on education, 1.3 trillion on pensions, 0.5 billion on welfare, so they spend somewhere around 3 trillion a year and therefore 15 trillion in the minimum timeframe proposed. We're proposing something that isn't quite a doubling of this expenditure.

    The US' GDP is about 18 trillion dollars in one year, and government spending across all levels is about 6 trillion a year so government is spending about 35% of GDP. We're proposing between a 25% and 33% increase in total government expenditure, which would leave the US governments spending maybe 8 trillion of 18 trillion dollars. That's about 44% of GDP, putting the US around the UK, Germany, Spain and Norway somewhere around the median for all countries in the OECD for government expenditure as a share of GDP.

    You have to expect that such a genuine attempt at investment in a neglected community would also save money down the line in healthcare costs, social support services, welfare benefits, law enforcement and incarceration, and also that the greater prosperity it caused would also increase tax revenue down the line.

    Probably a decent investment tbh. Certainly better than having a marginalised, beaten down, neglected underclass dragging on potential economic output forever. Essentially you've made the case that the US government could undertake exactly the sort of social expenditure needed to achieve greater social justice and equity, (the sort of social expenditures it should probably have been making anyway) while still remaining a recognisably free mixed market economy within the bounds defined by other rich countries.
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2016
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  11. Lexicus

    Lexicus Deity

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    To put it another way, the moral principle that 'people shouldn't be punished based on things that happened before they were born'
     
  12. Camikaze

    Camikaze Administrator Administrator

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    Thanks for your answers. They are a little different to what I was suspecting (and unfortunately, I thought there was a better conceptual argument you were shooting for).

    I perhaps should've been clear when I posed the hypothetical that I was concerned with moral questions, because the legal answers are clear - person B and their descendants will be able to get the car back, assuming person B hasn't disinherited their child. In the basic scenario outlined, it's implicitly assumed that the child will succeed to the rights of person B. That's a basic aspect of property rights - they don't perish when their holder does, and the right of person B to the car will continue through their estate and to their nominated beneficiary. Keep in mind that the concept of property rights incorporates choses in action, i.e. legal claims generally.

    So I wasn't quite expecting you to say that the child wouldn't be able to get the car back, because I wasn't anticipating that your point was an attack on property rights more broadly (a position which probably has more affinity for support for reparations than opposition). Rather, I was expecting you to acknowledge that which is acknowledged by the legal system - the right to compensation and obligation for restitution do not evaporate upon the happenstance of a party's death, and it's not generally considered a reward or punishment for that right and obligation to be sustained. The reward aspect makes sense if you're of the opinion that wealth shouldn't be inherited, but that still leaves the punishment side of the equation.

    The better argument that I was anticipating you would make (because I think it's probably the only really coherent argument), is that you're siding with Hart rather than Radbruch and Fuller. That is, you're taking the legal positivist position that German descendants shouldn't be forced to return Jewish-owned paintings, because there wasn't actually anything illegal about the expropriation of that property; it was entirely in accordance with the law of the Third Reich. On the other hand, theft is, by definition, illegal, and there is a legal cause of action to which the victim's descendants can properly succeed. Similarly, it would be said by a strict legal positivist that, reprehensible though slavery was, it was legal. Therefore there isn't any cause of action to which the descendants of slaves can properly succeed, nor any liability that can be traced through to the descendants of slave-owners, or the descendants of the beneficiaries of slavery more broadly.

    The answer of Radbruch and Fuller is that it's misleading to say that slavery was 'lawful', because the concept of 'law' contains an inner morality; there may have been statutory authorisation for the expropriation of Jewish property under the Nazi regime, but that alone does not make it lawful, when it runs counter to the fundamental elements of the very concept of law. Likewise, we might consider that slavery was never truly lawful, and a proper chose in action may now be recognised as having accrued in slaves. Of course, the considerations which play a part in supporting statutes of limitation would deny the utility in attempting to directly trace those property rights through to individual descendants today, so instead it's rational to engage in a more general form of compensation, which in any case is likely to be more beneficial for all parties involved, in that it can be tailored to redressing particular disadvantages that have arisen.

    The problem with adopting a legal positivist viewpoint in this argument seems to me to be that it ignores that the primary rationale for reparations isn't actually legal. We can, by analogy to legal principle, derive a moral obligation on the party of society to engage in some form of restitution, but our primary concern really isn't about maintaining fidelity to law by finding a pragmatic substitute to honouring technically existing legal rights; it's about the moral obligation itself. Although Hart would say that persecution of the Jews under Nazi Germany was perfectly legal, he would also certainly argue that a moral responsibility devolved upon the German successor states to attempt some form of compensation. That is, the moral obligation that is suggested by the view that slavery was never truly legal, and gave rise to a right to compensation on the part of slaves, is equally acknowledged from a legal positivist perspective.

    But you don't appear to be driving at that particular distinction, as your reply to the German hypothetical might have suggested. In that case I think you're just incorrect - the concepts of rights and duties in our society demonstrably extend beyond the shelf-life you attribute to them.

    I don't want to exclude the possibility that US law is off the wall completely, but the basis common law principle is that the liability of person C to account to person B (who initially had legal title to the car) is dependent upon whether person C is a bona fide purchaser for value without notice. If they satisfy those criteria, then civilly person B will be stuck with monetary compensation from person A, and person C won't have the necessary mens rea for any criminal offence.
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2016
  13. BvBPL

    BvBPL Pour Decision Maker

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    As a model for how similar conversations could be had at a larger scale. A case study.
     
  14. EgonSpengler

    EgonSpengler Deity

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    So I read the UN report, and it's not really about reparations for slavery. It's mainly about contemporary mistreatment and inequality. The Washington Post, for one, opened its article with a bit of a misleading title and opening sentence: "The history of slavery in the United States justifies reparations for African Americans, argues a recent report by a U.N.-affiliated group based in Geneva."

    They're not talking about the 1840s, they're talking about right now.

    The UN report particularly calls out the U.S. criminal justice system; our 'war on drugs', racial profiling, mandatory minimum sentencing, the death penalty, minors charged as adults, jail sentences for people unable to pay court fees, etc.
     
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  15. Synsensa

    Synsensa Deity Retired Moderator

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    I think you'll find that it's difficult for governments to simply increase their spending by 25% at a whim.

    Either way, you're right that the actual reparation money is not an inconsolable hit on the economy. My comment on circulation was wrong. My basic proposal doesn't take into consideration administrative costs, fraud, and people making mistakes with the money they're given or people claiming unfair treatment, but I don't imagine that would change the financial hit in any significant manner (not one that would otherwise change the point you've made, anyways). Thank you for correcting me. I got ahead of myself.

    To be clear, you're recommending: government-forced gentrification, completely changing the face and foundation of the global and national market with a snap of some fingers, and asking African countries to take back people who probably don't know where they are on a map?

    I'm ignoring your point about my figures for reparation. I doubt your idea would be particularly more financially effective than my basic proposal. I like the idea of using certain taxes for the explicit purpose of paying off a debt, but I'm not sure this could be done in any effective manner for a cost so large.

    This isn't an exam, there are more than three applicable answers to a vague hypothetical that's randomly presented in a discussion. Especially a discussion where someone has explicitly stated a condition and your hypothetical explicitly breaks that condition. You can't be unsatisfied with a response or say it's wrong when your retort isn't in the same territory as what I've been saying.

    My answer wasn't an attack on property rights either. I just don't think dwelling on the sins of the past is a particularly effective tactic. There's an argument to be made if people who were alive during the sin want reparation or equalization, but not much of one beyond the shelf life of the crime. This doesn't mean that I believe everyone should simply sit on their hands and be okay with the hand life dealt them because that would be an inane belief. Instead, I believe other tactics would be necessary to fix the problems being put forth by those who are only vaguely related to the crime. The UN report uses slavery as a scapegoat when it's highlighting issues that are specifically not slavery-related anymore. It calls for reparations when a specific reparation for slavery-based crimes wouldn't help anyone it's supposed to.
     
  16. REDY

    REDY Duty Caller

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    UN forgot on my money. In history we Slavs were enslaved nearly by everybody.
     
  17. .Shane.

    .Shane. Take it like a voter Retired Moderator

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    I'm not sure how you compensate people in 2016 for the sins of 150 years ago... (and yes, I get that Civil Rights still took another century to even come close to getting it right).

    And then where do you end? Native Americans? What do the British owe the Irish? Etc... etc....
     
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  18. Ryika

    Ryika Lazy Wannabe Artista

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    I feel torn about this. On the one hand it's clear that many of the problems black Americans face today are indirect consequences of the past, on the other hand everything negative anybody faces today is a direct consequence of something that happened in the past. This one thing is just very easy to trace, but it seems clear that focusing on race will a.) reward people who don't need the help - rich black Americans for example - and b.) neglect people who would also need help - white, poor people, especially those who ended up in that situation because of reasons that they had no or little influence on (which can also lie in the past, drug-addict single-mother with a runaway-dad; mistreating her children and never teaching them how to live a decent life for example).

    I don't understand what's so hard about just concluding that America should fix its wealth inequality and poverty problems, that would still help the black population disproportional because they're already the group that needs the most help - just without having to invent reasons to forget about the rest of the people in similar situation.

    I mean if the UN want to demand the rest of the world to live like them, then at least they should do it from a neutral perspective. Although I guess that sort of bias is to be expected from a sub-group specifically focused around African Americans.
     
  19. luiz

    luiz Trendy Revolutionary

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    So the report is actually sensible.

    Actual reparations are of course nonsense, as was demonstrated 20,000 times in the other thread*. But policies to fight discrimination and help underprivileged groups are a good thing.

    *Some objections to reparations that were raised an cannot be answered:
    -Why only slavery? Everybody descends from someone who was wronged at some point in history.
    -How to track people whose ancestors were really slaves (as opposed to black immigrants)?
    -At what point of mixed ancestry does one stop being eligible to receive reparations? 10% of all Southern whites descend from slaves. Do they get money too?

    "Reparations for slavery" seem more of a fetish of some wannabe radicals than a real policy proposal, because it's just too stupid.
     
  20. daft

    daft The fargone

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    Did Germany pay Reparations to the USSR for their invasion in 1941? For the 20 000 000 or so million people that died as the result of it?
    Did they pay out Poland for their aggression in 1939? Poland lost a large number of civilians as a result as well, 7 million was it?

    The term "Slave" originates directly from the name of a whole nation of people (divided into great many tribes), the Slavs.
    These people were taken by hundreds of thousands (if not millions) from their native lands by Frankish and Germanic from their homelands and forced into heavy labour(till death), sex slavery- all just because they refused to convert to Christianity. What happened to Reparations for that?
     

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