Re: Reparations

Date: Wed Aug 01 2001 - 10:23:12 MDT

Mike Lorrey wrote:
> Zero Powers wrote:
> >>From: Greg Burch
> >>BTW, regarding the question of the historical burden of slavery,
> >>I like to say that the current cost in the U.S. of slavery is the
> >>present value of the price of 40 acres and a mule in 1865.
>> Which, at first glance, may seem like a decent-sized chunk of
>> dough. However I assume that it was only freed black men living
>> during 1865 who were supposed to get that bounty. Assuming that
>> group numbered ~600,000 at the time, dividing their share amongst
>> their millions of present day black decendants would amount to
>> about 40 cents and a pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey game each.

> A couple food stamps and a bottle of ripple.

This latter bit is pretty typical of the racist comments that appear so often on this list. Does this kind of statement really lend anything to the discussion other than advertise and promote the prejudices of the writer?

> Well, farmland runs between $20-$500 an acre, generally, and you
> can buy a mule for about $200 or less, so this prices out at $1000-
> $20,200 in current dollars.

> Why does this seem like so little? Well, slaves didn't necessarily
> get paid 'nothing'. They did get free food and lodging, as well as
> health care (the mastuh didn't wanna lose the value of his stock)
> and clothing.

This would be funny if it weren't so sad. So I suppose the courts should also deduct food and lodging costs from the settlements granted Japanese-Americans in the USA and the victims of Nazi concentration camps? Heck, maybe the Japanese-Americans internees should be paying the government!

Just to set the record straight, the slaves got nothing for "free." They earned everything. Slave owners didn't bring in caterers. Slaves grew and prepared their own food. They constructed their own lodgings. They made their own clothes. If a doctor was brought in, he was paid in funds generated through the slaves' efforts. If anyone got anything for "free" it was the slaveowners who were enriched by the uncompensated labor of others.

> The purpose of the '40 acres and a mule' settlement was an attempt to
> make instant citizens out of the freed slaves, i.e. landed gentry, which
> was naively thought to be all that was needed to make a man into a
> thoughtful and concerned citizen.
> <snip>

Let's look at it this way: The slaves were essentially unwilling homesteaders, but homesteaders nevertheless. The land they worked was, in libertarian terms, "unowned." They cleared it. They plowed it. They planted the first crops and turned raw land into highly profitable agricultural commodities. That's what homesteaders do. They were entitled to the land they homesteaded. They had, through their labor, established their ownership. From a libertarian perspective, the state didn't own the land. The slaveowner's certainly didn't own it (can you gain ownership by forcing someone else to work undeveloped land that was granted from the state?) Obviously the slaves had the most legitimate claim through their uncompensated labor, the fruits of which were, in addition to their physical products, the rights to the land which they worked. In not paying them, the slaveowner forfeited any rights he or she may have claimed to any of their output. They not only stole their labor, they als!
o stole their homestead rights, meaning the land itself.

The slaves should have also been entitled to the right of inheritance, like any other people. This means that their descendants should have been entitled to the land that their ancestors worked for generations. This was unfairly denied them, of course. But that does not mean that these descendants cannot now come forward and reasonably lay claim to the properties which their ancestors earned homesteading. You see, when the self-ownership of slaves was not recognized they were denied a host of other rights as well, yet they continued to work and earn, in an ethical sense, the rights to the fruits of their labor.

So, let's take a look at how much of America could really be claimed by the descendants of slaves if basic Lockean and libertarian rights theory is fairly applied. It might end up being a lot more than 40 acres.

n.b. The above is not intended to imply that I am myself a libertarian or endorse the libertarian or objectivist philosophies.

Regards - Pat Inniss

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