In those days they shall say no more, the fathers have eaten a sour grape and the teeth of their children are set on edge…
Many years ago, during the anti-war riots of 1970, we attended a student rally at the University of New Mexico. Jane Fonda had come to Albuquerque to support the protestors.
Speaker after speaker got up and railed against the war, and against racism. Each one was careful to include the local victims — ‘Chicanos’ (Hispanics) and ‘Native Americans’ (the American Indians, who were an important minority at the University of New Mexico).
Then, after Ms. Fonda had left the podium, we heard drums…and saw a contingent of Indians headed toward the stage. One, a stout young man, took the microphone:
‘Stop using us, man’ was all he said.
The crowd was silent. What did he mean? Weren’t they trying to help?
The Indians marched off and the rally went back to its usual windy complaints.
And today, here at the Diary, we end this week’s ramble by looking at where bad ideas and bad money come together. That is, we will look at ‘reparations’…and a group that has been badly used for centuries. In preview: Once you begin handing out free money, it is hard to stop.
For years, ‘reparations’ seemed like just another dumb gripe. But it’s becoming real. Last week, the California Assembly agreed to take the case for ‘reparations’ seriously. Joe Biden says he is not opposed to the idea, as long as American Indians are included.
Settling the debt for centuries of mistreatment involves a substantial amount of money. The numbers we see most often are between $40,000 and $60,000 per Black person. That would tote to about $2.5 trillion in total.
Would that be a good ‘investment?’ Would it right the wrongs committed over so many years?
At first, you will think this is absurd. You did nothing wrong, Dear Reader; your teeth are not on edge. Why should you reach into your pocket to give money to someone you never met and never harmed?
People are not normally required to pay for the wrongs committed by their great-great-great-grandparents. Nor do people normally get a ‘recompense’ for something suffered by their ancestors.
Besides, many Americans can trace their family tree to an ancestor who died in the War Between the States, fighting (supposedly) to end slavery. And many millions of others arrived long after slavery ended.
On neither side — neither tort nor injury — is there any way to prove the case. At least, not in the traditional, fact-based, objective-reality world of Post-Enlightenment western jurisprudence.
But wait. The claim may be counterfeit…but so is the money that would settle it. The Trump Administration just distributed about the same amount — nearly $3 trillion — to people with no real claim to the money at all.
And the Federal Reserve gave about an equal amount to the top 10% — $2.8 trillion — boosting their capital asset values by about $10 trillion. Again, the recipients neither deserved, earned, nor even needed the money.
So why not give out reparations to the African Americans who make up 13% of the population?
Reparations would also be a major departure from the ‘social contract’ that holds the nation together. In the Declaration of Independence, the 14th Amendment, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, is the idea that all people are supposed to be treated equally badly by the government. Martin Luther King described it when he said:
I have a dream that one day, this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’
Of course, it was always a ‘myth.’ But it was a useful one. Equality is a physical impossibility. But the idea that we should be treated equally was a guiding principle. Like the North Star, you never get there…but at least it keeps you headed in the right direction.
Open and shut case
In practice, some people were treated worse than others. And one group has been used badly — Blacks.
Slavery was common in the ancient world — even in pre-Columbian America. But race-based slavery was an American innovation. The first immigrants from Africa to Virginia were not slaves. They were indentured, just as your editor’s own ancestor was.
But in 1655, a Virginia court was asked to consider the case of Mr. Anthony Johnson of Northampton County. Mr. Johnson was from West Africa. He had worked off his indenture and now had indentured servants of his own, including another African named John Casor.
Indentures were generally for seven years, so Casor expected to be released after his indenture expired. Instead, Mr. Johnson kept him in servitude for a further seven years, until the case came to court:
The original court document tells the story:
The deposition of Captain Samuel Goldsmith taken (in open court) 8th of March Sayth, That beinge at the howse of Anthony Johnson Negro (about the beginninge of November last to receive a hogshead of tobacco) a Negro called John Casar came to this Deponent, and told him that hee came into Virginia for seaven or Eight yeares (per Indenture) And that hee had demanded his freedome of his master Anthony Johnson; And further said that Johnson had kept him his servant seaven yeares longer than hee ought, And desired that this deponent would see that hee might have noe wronge, whereupon your Deponent demanded of Anthony Johnson his Indenture, hee answered, hee never sawe any; The said Negro (John Casor) replyed, hee came for a certayne tyme and had an Indenture Anthony Johnson said hee never did see any But that hee had him for his life…and the said Anthony Johnson did not tell the negro goe free.
The case seems simple enough. Open and shut. Mr. Johnson was in the wrong.
But laws are written and popular ideas evolve, sometimes in nasty directions. The court handed down its verdict. Mr. John Casor thus became perhaps the first ‘legal’ slave in America.
(Later, the gods had their revenge on the Johnson family. Mr. Johnson’s children were not allowed to inherit their father’s property — because they were Black.)
Even after slavery was abolished, the Black man still didn’t get a fair shake. The Ku Klux Klan, the Jim Crow laws, the ‘Separate but Equal’ doctrine…all seemed to keep him in his place.
But they didn’t stop him.
For a hundred years following the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, Blacks continued to make progress — more or less like every other immigrant group — learning skills, entering the professions, setting up their own businesses, and closing the gap between themselves and Whites.
But then, do-gooders and world-improvers began to use Blacks in a novel way — with disastrous consequences.
In 1964, came the War on Poverty, which gave money to Blacks — but only if they didn’t marry and didn’t work. It also created a new, cronyfied Black elite — who figured out how to game the $21 trillion poverty/racism industry, getting jobs, grants, and special privileges for ‘minority’ enterprises.
Then, in 1971, the War on Drugs brought a whole new level of violence, as gangs fought for market share. Drug laws put millions of Blacks behind bars…nurturing a criminal culture and making it harder than ever for many to get jobs in the normal economy.
And then came the funny money.
Over decades, it shifted manufacturing jobs overseas (it was easier and cheaper to buy things from overseas with fake money than it was to make them here). This, along with minimum wages, kicked the bottom rung out from under the laboring classes — Black and White.
And in 2009, the Federal Reserve kicked its program of money-printing into high gear…with a massive transfer of wealth from the middle and lower classes to the top 10%.
And if that weren’t enough, as mentioned above…the Fed has now gone all out…with huge bailouts to Wall Street, in which very few Blacks participate. Overall, by our estimate, in the last 90 days, the typical Black got only 1/33rd as much fake money as the top 10%.
And now…with this sorry history in front of us all…what to do?
The elite, the insiders, the opinion mongers — Black and White…the same people who created this situation — have a new solution. What else? More fake money!
But when you can buy votes, temporary peace, crony support, and campaign donations by passing out counterfeit money, even the craziest scams seem to make sense.
And it will ‘stimulate’ the economy.
A better idea
That’s why the ‘reparations’ argument is not likely to go away. It ‘ticks the boxes’ of many of our fantasies…and excites the grubby self-interest of the elites.
It would make the White elite ‘feel good’ about themselves.
It would give more power and money to the Black elite, allowing them to exploit their own people even more ruthlessly.
Also, it wouldn’t cost anything — the money is free.
It would give the average Black person a temporary buying spree…but leave him more dependent on the elite and more desperate than ever.
It would help destroy the economy, shifting another $2.5 trillion worth of resources from investment to consumption.
And it would cause much of White America to resent Blacks…and ‘gun up,’ anticipating a violent confrontation.
Reparations? Yes, another jackass idea.
We have a better one.
How about this…Instead of reparations, why not just stop using Blacks? End the War on Poverty. End the War on Drugs. De-mob the troops…defund the elites…shut down the Fed and its funny-money scam…and finally take the feds’ knee off their necks?