Black Lives Matter (BLM) is emerging out of the shadows as the violent Black Marxist movement that it is. BLM finds significant support among white liberals and others.
One issue being raised is reparations. From one angle, this is simply a con. It’s meant to pick the pockets of a lot of white people who did nothing to black people.
In fact, reparations from whites to blacks, unheralded as such, have already occurred, to the tune of $22 trillion since the War on Poverty began in 1965.
These wealth transfers haven’t produced black-white equality. There is every reason to expect that another round of wealth transfers, called reparations or aid or welfare, will also not create equality of income and wealth among the races.
Reparations won’t bring black people into any kind of “equality” with other people. Prior wealth transfers haven’t done this and new ones won’t either.
At the same time, wealth transfers to black people and the accompanying liberal programs have produced significant negative results.
Whatever sum might be chosen for reparations, it will never be enough. It will cause demands for more. The Black Marxists and their allies will raise the ante indefinitely. The Black Marxists want race conflict. They want internal divisions. They want America to fail. They want a revolution with a socialist/communist outcome. They want power.
Reparations to black people, if ever enacted by Congress, will be a major disaster for this country.
Reparations are highly unlikely to be done by ascertaining who invaded whose rights and by how much, and who owes what to whom. Instead, the charge made is a blanket charge called “systemic racism”. The Marxist idea is to indict American society, government and laws altogether.
Marxists will make this charge relentlessly, ignoring all questions and criticisms. Nonetheless, the charge of systemic racism is totally false. It can’t be made to stick on Americans now alive. The work of Thomas Sowell shows the flaws in the systemic racism thesis. But I offer another demonstration that the label doesn’t apply to Americans today.
Most Americans now alive were born after 1935. They had nothing to do with what happened before they were born, during the slavery and Jim Crow eras. Thereafter, when they were reaching voting age, the country was entering the Civil Rights era (1954-1968) and the War on Poverty era; and these years are years, not of systemic racism, but wealth transfers to black people and even reverse racism.
In terms of equity, any method chosen to transfer wealth will be unfair to the people being taxed in all sorts of ways that anyone can see or think up.
The unfairness will generate negative emotions of all kinds directed in many ways and directions.
Black people are no more homogeneous than any other people with other skin colors. They differ in many ways. There are no rules of wealth transfer that can treat them all equitably. Some escaped racism’s worst effects by internal migration. Should they be compensated the same as the black people who didn’t move north and west?
Reparations are only fair in theory when damages are assessed against those guilty of a crime against identifiable victims. Who are the victims and who are the guilty?
Is every white person in America supposed to be guilty of “systemic racism”? That’s a senseless proposition, as noted above; but there is no other basis for reparations levied against white people than this allegation.
I do not favor reparations at all, but it’s still worthwhile to make some calculations to grasp what they may mean and to point out a few of the difficulties with blanket indictments of whites and with cries of systemic racism.
The U.S. population was 39 million in 1870, of which 34 million were white and 5 million were black.
Of today’s 328 million people, 250 million are white and 44 million are black.
Several distinct white groups can be identified using 1870 as a cutoff date. First, there are currently living immigrants for which the 1870 date is irrelevant. They number 41 million. They shouldn’t have to pay reparations, as they just got here. (Another 4.2 million current immigrants are black; they shouldn’t receive reparations.)
Second, there are the now living whites whose forefathers were immigrants from 1870 onwards. This group numbers about 59 million. This estimate is obtained as follows. There have been 73 million immigrants since 1870 of which 45 million are here now. The other 28 million, spread over 1870 and after, have had children. How many of these descendants are alive today? Suppose that these 28 million on average arrived halfway through the 150-year period from 1870 to 2020. Suppose that these 28 million experienced 1% population growth per annum over the next 75 years. Then their number would rise to 59 million. This estimate is checked in the next calculation and found to be sensible.
This group of 59 million also doesn’t owe any reparations to black people. They are immigrants and their progeny who came after 1870 and minded their own business.
The third group contains 151 million whites who trace back to the whites that were living in 1870. These numbered 34 million in 1870, and at a 1% growth rate of population, they would have grown to 151 million by 2020. This group is potentially guilty, if proven, of having benefited by the racism of their ancestors.
The three groups add up to 251 million (41 + 59 + 151). This checks against the 2019 population figures of 328 million people of which 250 million are white.
In 1870, when there were 34 million whites, how many were ex-slaveholders? As a first cut at this, the total population of the Confederacy at its maximum extent (13 states) is of interest. This comes to 12.53 million, which is 37 percent of the total of 34 million whites. Under the assumption that these 12.53 million are most guilty of racism, we take 37% of the current 151 million whites, and we get 56 million whites. This is the eligible pool of whites today whose wealth may owe to what their forefathers did in the Confederate states. White people living elsewhere are excluded, as the case against them is weak or non-existent, certainly far from a direct case of benefiting from systemic racism while inflicting harm on black people.
The reader will duly note that in trying to go about this fairly, the pool of whites who might be deemed guilty has shrunk from 250 million to 56 million. The Black Marxists and their allies can try to blow the number back up by alleging that all whites should be included because of “their” racist laws and the privileges bestowed on them by such laws. But even 56 million descendants of the 12.53 million whites in the Confederacy is too large a number. Not all were slaveholders.
As a matter of fact, there were black people who owned black slaves. The descendants of these black owners should not get reparations. They should be indicted along with the indicted whites. “In 1830 there were 3,775 free black people who owned 12,740 black slaves.”
There were 394,000 slaveholders in 1860. If they were all white and the persons most guilty of racial exploitation, the pool of white people who are their descendants today would be drastically reduced from 56 million to less than 2 million people. Even if 10-15 times as many whites benefited from slavery, today’s pool of whites would be reduced to 20-30 million people.
There are 44 million black people in America. The largest possible pool of potentially guilty whites, based upon their links to the Confederacy, is 56 million. Assume for the moment that their number is equal at 44 million. What wealth transfer would bring about equality of wealth? The white wealth averages about 10 times the black wealth. Suppose the household wealth of a white is $100,000 and that of a black is $10,000. To equalize them, the white person must give up $45,000 to the black. The total wealth transfer would be $2.42 trillion.
A forced wealth transfer for the sake of some indefinite racial crime is an outrageous thing to do to anyone who has worked to accumulate wealth. You may as well take away a person’s life. A person who has put in years and years to make a living and accumulate wealth is suddenly told “You’re guilty of racism. You don’t deserve what you’ve built up. Neither do your children deserve an inheritance. There are some people living in a nearby ghetto and you owe them half your wealth.”
Is the white person even truly responsible for the black person’s low wealth relative to the white person? What’s happened to the responsibility of the black person?
There are other problems.
How many white people have contributed directly and indirectly to black people? We do not know, but should they be forced to pay reparations?
How should reparations be levied equitably when a family with joint property has one spouse in the pool and one not in the pool?
How should reparations be levied equitably when one family member spouse is white and the other is black?
Who is white and who is black? A study from 2014 finds “The average African-American genome, for example, is nearly a quarter European, and almost 4% of European Americans carry African ancestry.”
Should everyone’s genome be analyzed? Should a black person’s reparation check be reduced according to the percentage of white genome? Should white people with black genome character receive reparations according to their percentage of black genome?
Maybe ancestry should only be a first step in the rules governing wealth transfers. Maybe damages to black people inflicted by white people should be measured by the income a black person earns compared to a white, or maybe even by wealth. That presumes that racism is the sole or most important cause of income and wealth disparities. Is it? Are the Black Marxists willing to engage in real debate with Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams, or are they going to repeat their charges and proposals without end while burning, looting, spray painting, occupying, hurling missiles, and toppling?
In an opening bid based upon the idea of white guilt, Robert Johnson, a billionaire black businessman, has suggested that black people be paid $14 trillion in reparations over a period of 30 years.
Johnson spouts the Marxist line that “America” has to “atone” for its sin. However, according to the preceding analysis of white subgroups in America, most of us white people have absolutely nothing to atone for in the race department. Most of us white people are guilty of no racial sins.
Johnson may have billions, but that doesn’t mean that he understands economics. He believes that American wealth depends on wealth that slaves produced: “If you gave me a group of the brightest forensic accountants, I would be willing to bet you that I could trace every dollar of wealth in the United States today back to slavery.” Johnson hasn’t read McCloskey: “To cast enslavement of some as requisite for the wealth of others is bad economics, then, and bad history. But it is also a toxic ideology.”
What are we to do with people who have money and power, who feel free to make outrageous economic proposals (in the form of social proposals) but who do not understand economics?
Johnson would transfer money to black people year by year for 30 years, and he thinks that this would equalize black and white wealth. Does he not understand that black people might end up as poor as ever, in both absolute and relative terms, if they consumed the funds rather than invested them fruitfully?
Reparations is an idea that should be buried and buried deeply. It cannot do America and Americans any good at all.
Racism in America is the rallying cry of a new generation of educated, well-off and well-positioned black people. They are spouting a Marxist line. They are not hurting, but they act as if they are being oppressed and held by a yoke of racism. They play a psychological game of dominance in which they cannot accept what they have without simultaneously forcing some sort of doctrinal admission of sin from white people. They want to be the masters now and white people their slaves and submissive. They want revenge, and part of that revenge is money taken from white people. They want power, and the most violent among them threaten to burn down the system.6:02 pm on June 27, 2020 Email Michael S. Rozeff