Saturday, August 1, 2015

Yesterday’s Post

The title of yesterday’s post promised something about Reparations. The first part of any argument for Reparations is proof of harm and proof of benefit from that harm. Something was taken away which benefited the Robber. This is hardly controversial. The major avoidance scheme for recognizing responsibility for bad acts had to be shown as complicit and in fact is evidence of guilt and responsibility for those bad acts. The really difficult problem is what form are any reparations, hypothetical or otherwise, to take. This problem includes both the How, the To Whom and the From Whom of reparations. No raindrop believes it is responsible for a flood. Racism is held in place by thousands and millions of little acts, each quite harmless considered in isolation. One raindrop hurts no one.

Ultimately, arguments for Reparations attempt to extend Tort Law from relations between persons and Corporations to what exactly? Group and Group? White identity and Black identity have become so intertwined as to become inseparable. What is to be done with biracial persons? Are they 3/5 of a Black person? What about people whose ancestor(s) successfully passed as white? And as fantastic as it might seem, what about whites who passed as Black? Love sometimes results in convoluted situations and idiosyncratic necessities. Why aren’t all African-Americans as black as Africans? Why so much brown, light skin, or high yeller? Rape is the explanation for much of the lack of the deep black characteristic of most Africans. Human beings, both Black and White, are a sexually curious species. In today’s legal culture, the Africans on that first ship to Jamestown would have had a solid case.

There is a need for something, but financial Reparations are not workable even if otherwise justified. And non-financial Reparations? A joint Resolution of Congress that Slavery sucked and we’re sorry but life goes on pretty much as before? I suppose working toward Economic Justice (jobs, education, housing, etc) is at least conceptually workable, even if not politically. Such moves would be decried as unearned and against Earning What You Have. As explained yesterday, the Protestant Salvation Machinery prevents recognition of a need for Something. Arguments from Fairness and Justice will not work simply because very few, if any Whites, believe that they ever did anything wrong or are the recipients extorted through Violence. Hence, Fairness and Justice don’t apply.

There is a political argument to made for Something. There is only one Political Virtue: duration of the polity. The Founding Fathers were not concerned (at least not directly) with Justice, Equality and Fairness. They wanted to design a government that would endure. Lack of strife under an enduring and stable government would make liberty and prosperity possible. They ransacked the past to learn lessons from the past, both failures and successes. They found that empires, kingdoms, republics, democracies etc failed because of an imbalance of power. One part of the polity in becoming excessively powerful generated resentment plants the seeds of violent overthrow. With an imbalance too many ambitious individuals are excluded from governance. Napoleons waiting in the wings. Their solution is known to every schoolchild in this country: Checks and Balances. Over the course of our history, it has been found that not only Political Power must be held in check but also social and economic power. Every kind of Power has its limits, even the power of Majorities and the only way to set limits is with another different power. Power limits Power. That is the only justification that I can find for the Electoral College but more effectively, Judicial Review. At least that is how I read The Federalist Papers.

The institutionalization of Group-Based exploitation and oppression increases conformity in both exploited groups and in the exploiting group. Bureaucratized Conformity in turn breeds laziness and corruption breeding in turn more resentment, deepening the sense of Injustice. Inevitably some charismatic individual(s) arise who are able to channel and direct their populace’s sense of Injustice. Consider Poland in the 1970s and 1980s, South Africa under Apartheid, and India prior to the WWII. One of the arguments (and there were many) for Desegregation and the Civil Rights Act was the fear that the Soviet Union might capitalize on the resentment widespread among African Americans. Why counter this possible move? Endurance and Stability of the Republic.

To return the problem of Reparations, something needs to be done. I don’t know what. I lack the requisite experience and training. I’m looking forward to investigating Ta-Nehisi Coates. Maybe I need to read more and think harder. Greater minds have tried and failed to crack this nut.

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