Pre-election season has dawned upon us, and politicians are scurrying to their populist positions to appeal to their target demographics. Two Republicans have thus far announced their presidential campaigns, while a staggering 19 Democrats have announced their intentions to take the Oval Office. With the Democratic Party pandering to the growing left wing progressive movement, the competing candidates must take radical positions in order to stand out among the crowded bunch. One of the particular positions a handful are vocally promoting is granting reparations to African Americans to reimburse for the toil inflicted upon their enslaved ancestors.
Many proponents of this policy claim that since the Japanese were given reparations after Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt confiscated their private property and forced them into internment camps, and Jews affected by Hitler’s Nazi regime were compensated, it is only fair that African Americans are given what is owed to them.
As a firm believer in property rights and the right to self-ownership, I am personally 100% in support of reparations. If one’s labor were forcibly utilized to generate wealth for another, the victim should be properly reimbursed at the perpetrator’s expense. If a product of my labor was stolen, I expect it to be returned after I have had my day in court. Do you not?
If you disagree, then you shouldn’t have a problem with John Doe holding a firearm to your head and forcing you to exert labor, receiving no fruits, while he generates an income.
Now, what of reparations for the actions of our ancestors?
When we are discussing reparations from an event that took place 150 years ago, there will be gray areas which we have to logically address. If our society intends to function through a system of property rights as an ethical means of constituting ownership, then we must follow the conclusion that if an estate owned by the ancestors of Person A was generated by the slave labor of the ancestors of Person B, then the descendants of Person B are justified in claiming a portion of the inherited estate of Person A. For example: if John Doe’s grandfather stole property from Bob Johnson’s grandfather, then Bob Johnson is entitled to the stolen property which John Doe inherited.
A key element in the above observation should be noted.
Reparations are granted from one particular estate to another or from one individual to another. For there to be genuine justice, the only ethical solution would be for the specific estate of the perpetrator to reimburse the descendants of the slave. This concept is contrary to the method of reparations the Democratic politicians are proposing.
They propose that the government exact reparations. The issue with that is that the government doesn’t necessarily generate income from business ventures. Instead, their income is from tax revenue, which is confiscated from the various citizens under its jurisdiction. Therefore, if the government were to grant reparations to African Americans, it would not be at the expense of the slave owner and their blood line, rather all of the citizenry.
How would it be justice for a Chinese immigrant who came to the United States a mere decade ago, to give the descendants of a slave a portion of their income when neither them nor their ancestors infringed on the rights of the slave’s familial line? How would it be ethical to force the descendants of a white abolitionist to pay reparations to the descendants of slaves, especially since they were firmly against them being indentured in the first place? Additionally, along with every other citizen, African Americans pay taxes as well. If reparations were to be granted through government payment, then African Americans would be doing nothing more than paying themselves and others who share their skin color!
If you are a firm believer in property rights, and adhere to the concept that you own the fruits of your labor, then it is logically consistent to be in favor of reparations. However, when the government inserts itself into the issue and overrides civil court proceedings between private parties, we are instead punishing individuals for acts which neither they nor their ancestors had any part in.
If the descendants of slaves can trace their lineage back to a particular plantation through various records, and then proceed to locate the current executors of the estate of the slave owner, then it would be justified to enter civil court or utilize arbitrators to seek reparations. However, if the politicians’ means of seeking reparations is to steal the fruits of one’s labor to give to another, this action accomplishes nothing and instead perpetuates the cycle. If the citizenry are forced to give a portion of their generated income to a particular demographic, are they not now their slaves?