Posted by: bridget | 28 June 2007

The Economic Problem of Reparations

The United Nations is demanding that the Japanese apologise for their use of comfort women during WWII.

In a report issued Friday, the U.N. committee condemned what it called efforts to cover up history and urged Japan to address the “discriminatory roots of sexual and gender-based violations” and improve rehabilitation for survivors. It said the victims suffered “incurable wounds” and are experiencing “continuing abuse and re-traumatization as a result of the state party’s official denial of the facts, concealment or failure to disclose other facts, failure to prosecute those criminally responsible for acts of torture, and failure to provide adequate rehabilitation to the victims and survivors.”

Reading between the lines, is the UN encouraging Japan to provide reparations? In 1993, the Asian Women’s Fund was set up via private donations to compensate comfort women. As the money did not come from the government, many women refused it. Reading a bit more: are reparations even limited to comfort women? Isn’t the real purpose behind “continuing abuse” to provide funds to those who never suffered from sex slavery: the descendants of the women who were forced into prostitution? This is not unlike the movement in the US to provide recompense to the descendants of slaves.

It is a legitimate function of government to compensate those who were harmed by its policies. The US Constitution includes the Takings Clause to ensure that private property is not taken without “just compensation;” it would be truly irrational to provide compensation for the unjust taking of land but not of dignity, freedom, and bodily integrity. Undoubtedly, women forced into sex slavery ought to be compensated. This is not the point of the reparations movement, however: it is to compensate those who were never harmed, nor never knew anyone who was harmed, by government policy.

The government does not have any money of its own: all of its funds are directly derived from the taxpayers. The reparations movement is government-sanctioned thievery: the taxpayers were not even alive to protest or sanction the crimes, and thus cannot be responsible for the wrongdoing; the beneficiaries were never harmed, and thus have no right to the money. Anyone who thinks that far-distant descendants deserve, by virtue of their birth, to live the high life off of taxpayers is just inventing another form of hereditary aristocracy, albeit one based on long-forgotten suffering and not on the outcome of long-forgotten wars.

Don’t ask liberals to understand the economics of taxation, though (unless you happen to have a giant bottle of Aleve lying around). Here’s a sampling of the nonsense the pachyderm has heard:

I don’t think you grasp the distinction between some sort of professional shyster trying to make a quick buck (as you seem to imagine), and the gravitas that only an apology with fiscal reparation carries.

Again, whose money? In 2007, the taxpayers (ages 16 to 65) are those who were born between 1942 and 1991 – i.e. those who were not responsible for the actions of their government during the 1940s.

Where is the “gravitas” in using someone else’s money? If reparations are instituted in the US, Senators and Representatives will not take a pay cut, nor will the slaveowners of the 1850s will not cough up money from their graves: the only result is either higher taxes or fewer services rendered that were paid for but will never be received. The entire burden is on the citizenry, not the government.

And don’t give me that nonsense about governments not having any money, but only taxing. They manage to find the money for every other project they think is worthwhile.

It’s hard to imagine so many logical fallacies crammed into 29 words. The government “finds” money for projects it deems worthwhile by… drumroll… taxing its constituents. The fact that the government may have money for certain projects does not mean that it raised that money by means other than taxation; it also does not mean that those projects are equally (in)valid as reparations.

Finally, any good government is one of limited, enumerated powers – to provide for the common defence, to resolve disputes, to ensure a free market, to protect those unable to protect themselves. Its power to tax is directly tied to the exercise of those powers; anything else is thievery from its constituents. Whether the beneficiaries be despots or favoured groups, it is sanctioned theft under the threat of imprisonment.

A citizenry that deems worthwhile a project that is outside the scope of proper governmental powers may provide for it by private charity; it need not force its fellow man to subsidise the cost of its conscience. A government that provides for special interests, at cost to the taxpayers, will find itself not long in existence: the responsible persons will be voted out of office or the government will be overthrown.

Putting one’s money where one’s mouth is speaks louder than any other message in a capitalist culture… In the modern world, the currency is money. By offering money as part of an apology, the government would be showing their true remorse isn’t just lip-service. The descendants of “comfort women” deserve a fiscal acknowledgment of their mothers’ trauma.

Putting other people’s money where one’s mouth is does not speak at all.

Why does anyone “deserve fiscal acknowledgment of their mother’s trauma?” It is not a basic human right to receive money for suffering by your ancestors any more than it is a basic human right to receive social standing based upon the good deeds of one’s ancestors. The US rejected the monarchy of England and instituted a system whereby “all men are created equal.” This statement cannot be reconciled with the idea that, by virtue of birth, some individuals have the right to the money of others, and that such right ought to be sanctioned and enforced by the government.

I cannot stand this willful refusal to acknowledge and consider the perpetuity of an atrocity’s effects. Comfort women’s children are the children of comfort women. Comfort women’s grandchildren are the grandchildren of comfort women, and on and on and on. When a people has been dehumanized, the humanity of their progeny is not a foregone conclusion, I’m afraid, which is why the descendants of the violently dehumanized black American slave are still denied full recognition of our humanity to this day.

First of all, liberals shouldn’t talk about denying humanity to people (like the unborn and slaves). More than that, where do you get the idea that generations are forever tainted by some far-distant harm? We are all the descendants of women, who have been dehumanised; does that mean that the only people who could ever be human are male clones? America is a nation of immigrants, most of whom were persecuted in their home countries. Does that give us claim against England, France, and Germany? Is there truly any person who can claim an unbroken lineage of privilege and right? This pachyderm is part Irish and recalls that her ancestors were the victims of “No Irish Need Apply.” Reparations time – bamboo and sugarcane for life!

Finally, how are the descendants of slaves denied “recognition of their humanity?” Jim Crow is over. The Civil Rights Act has been around for generations. Former slaves got the right to vote fifty years before women did: if anyone has the right to complain about denial of humanity, it might be those who suffered under de jure discrimination for generations afterwards. No one, however, seeks to shuffle money to the descendants of women – that would merely take money from everyone and give it back to everyone.

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Responses

  1. I saw a liberal blogger recently demand that the government produce the money for uninsured children. Perhaps the underlying request had some cost-effective merit or perhaps not, but the euphemism of the government “producing” money was laughable naivete’. The don’t produce; they take. By threat of force.

    While I grieve for victims I wouldn’t grieve the elimination of the victim mentality. It is a lousy way to go through life.

  2. As usual, you say it better than I could and in about a fifth as many words.

    The don’t produce; they take. By threat of force.

    From their citizens.

  3. Reparations have been paid. They were paid in the form of the blood of 360,000 dead union soldiers, and 275,200 wounded Union Soldiers, tens of billions of dollars in entitlements for housing, food, and income that disproportionately (by far) goes to African Americans.

  4. TT,

    I’m glad you weighed in. I’m not much into American history (classical history, mostly). I think you left out “40 acres and a mule,” though, and, of course, the fact that the South STILL has not economically recovered.

    You’re doing a good job of explaining my point better than I – that reparations will really never end, and the movement will create a perpetual entitled aristocracy.

  5. great post and i really like TT’s point. wow.

    on a not serious note.
    what about paying reperations to those who went through the “safe sex” programs in public school system (back when i was in school) and were mislead to believe condoms made sex safe and ended up with HPV which can be contracted despite condom use. Especially if they now have cervical cancer. Hm?

    How come in all the HPV commercials/ immunization talk, no one talks about that.

  6. “I think you left out “40 acres and a mule,”

    That was suggested but never in anyway followed through on. There were actually several different suggestions for reparations at the time- none took place.

    “that reparations will really never end, and the movement will create a perpetual entitled aristocracy.”

    Have you read some of the literature by these people pushing reparations? They don’t want individual checks sent to regular black folks. That want TRILLIONS of dollars put in a fund to be managed by the like of Jesse Jackson and his fellow ideologues and black academics.

    Although how about trying this reparation solution…

    “40 acres and a car…”

    The car part is a bit of an add on and a joke, but the 40 acres part is serious. Let’s end this reparations thing once and for all. We grant each and every black American (who can trace ancestry to this country before 1861) 40 acres of government land out west. They can keep it and build on it, sell it, whatever.

    As a result the government would lose some of its power (control over those western lands), individual African Americans would see a real form of compensation, and we would turn almost EVERY black American into landowners (and consequently, most likely Republicans or at least conservatives).

    What do you think of that?

  7. BRILLIANT!!! Absolutely BRILLIANT!

    The idea of giving people checks is bad (those who win the lottery or inherit money are often worse off a few years afterwards, as they have no idea how to manage it); having Jesse Jackson manage a fund is worse. I could only imagine the purposes to which it would be put – lawsuits? Certainly not things like scholarships for black children to go to expensive private high schools and learn in a high-achieving culture.

    If you can provide some citations to reparations literature, I would be happy to read it (and, of course, opine on it, because I think that everyone really wants to know what I think!).

    (Apropos of nothing, my mum suggested that, as 8% of Mexicans are here illegally, we should take over 8% of their land. “40 acres and a gardener!”)

  8. “If you can provide some citations to reparations literature, I would be happy to read it (and, of course, opine on it, because I think that everyone really wants to know what I think!).”

    Let me see if I can dig it up, most of it was published back in 1999-2000.

  9. Excellent post. Unfortunately, we live in a world of socialism, where everybody thinks it’s government’s job to pay for the things that happen to them, or worse, the thing that they cause to happen to them. Yet another sick example.

  10. Thanks, TT.

    LoneDrifter: one of my high school teachers said that the debates in government are about how to satisfy unlimited need with finite resources. Once you hear that, two things hit home: 1) government is not God and cannot solve everyone’s problems; and 2) the government is not a printing press or God; it cannot create wealth, only take it from the citizenry.

  11. BTW another result of my land reparations plan would be MORE political power in the hands of black Americans. Currently the black population is scattered throughout the U.S. and only have several areas where they constitute a large political force (think Louisiana) within any single state.

    But the western states have very low populations. If even 1/3 of African Americans decided to settle on the land and build African Americans could easily take over the political reigns of power in states like Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, etc.

    This could be very good on many levels. First and foremost it would mean no more excuses. Yes, African Americans have lots of power in D.C. and New Orleans, but they aren’t held accountable because they can say, “well we have a history of poverty/oppression here.” But if they were to move to say Montana, this is fresh territory, no history of poverty. So it would be the sink or swim for black leadership to drop the demagoguery and get some real plans together.

  12. No answer? :-(

  13. Sorry – been busy!

    I think you are right, which is why the Left would never go for it. Accountability, after all these years? That might force people to acknolwedge that the white, male power structure isn’t the one knocking up 16-year-old crack whores, putting their daddies into gangs, and then making everyone drop out of high school. Whoops, that was politically incorrect – bad elephant!

  14. TT……..”Reparations have been paid. They were paid in the form of the blood of 360,000 dead union soldiers, and 275,200 wounded Union Soldiers, tens of billions of dollars in entitlements for housing, food, and income that disproportionately (by far) goes to African Americans.”

    And where is our change? …… steve


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