RE: `capitalist' character values

From: Lee Corbin (
Date: Sat Jul 28 2001 - 22:26:01 MDT

Olga writes (and later Damien)

> I'm not trying to force you to take responsibility for something you have
> not done personally. If you live in the U.S.A., you are profiting from some
> the prosperity which is still tricking down to us from slave labor (by
> institutions built by slave labor, by companies which have direct and
> indirect ties to the prosperity of companies which operated on slave labor,
> including stocks).

I'm very uncertain that I am profiting,
actually. The strongest argument that I can
think of is that the cotton picked was traded
to the northern States, and thus increased
the prosperity of the nation as a whole.
But then didn't England profit even more?
(Not sure about that, but a tremendous amount
went to the factories of Manchester.)

These webs are complex indeed. Now if I
or someone commits an aggressive act
against another person, damages can usually
be assessed. But in cases like this? I
have heard it argued that black people today
are much better off than they would be if
their ancestors had been left in Africa;
after all, American blacks are substantially
better off, at least in material goods, than
are people in Africa.

Quite separate from that is my belief that
institutions like slavery (even like using
and then returning labor to Mexico) hurt the
slaver too; I actually think that the American
south would have been better off *throughout*
its history if the abominable practice had
never started. They would have been forced
to industrialize sooner, and today would be
a healthier and better-educated people. I
wonder if they should get reparations too;
after all, individually they are no more
responsible for slavery than you or I are.

Damien writes

> BTW, I would assert myself that Olga isn't trying to *blame* today's
> non-racist whites for the ills done by their ancestors (or even by other
> less enlightened whites today) to, for example, Pat Fallon's ancestors. I
> believe she was arguing correctly, as Nazi work camp survivors have done
> effectively in court, that their stolen labor partly underpins the wealth
> of today's whites and so requires some compensation.

The link is much, much closer if a particular citizen
(say of Germany) was seized for a few years while a
madman was in power, and his or her assets forfeited.
Those assets or a monetary equivalent can be returned.
But where would one start with American blacks? In
many cases, their ancestors lost some tribal conflict
and instead of being killed, were sold to slavers, who
then sold them to American southerners. They never were
citizens (until the Emancipation Proclamation, despite
the humorous assigment of "3/5 person" as a political
compromise when determining the influence of states in
the union).

> Seems reasonable to me. But then I feel that way,
> in some measure, about all the underpaid labor of
> all the poor working stiffs throughout history--
> nearly all the ancestors of nearly all of us.

Well, I'll confess that the worst part, to me, is that
the reparations wouldn't do any good. If you give
some rich person some money, it just gets added to
his or her investments; it doesn't affect their
life style. And it would be true that well-educated
black people would make the most of the money they
suddenly received. But it would merely finance
further wasteful living practices among far too
many blacks (just as sudden one-time jackpots affect
poor people everywhere). BTW, returning tax money
is different in principle; it amounts to simply taking
less in the first place of money rightfully earned by


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