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Follow-up II: On the idiocy of reparations to U.S. Blacks

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In early December 2022, I wrote about the idiocy of reparations to U.S. Blacks (cf. [1], [2]).

Since then, there have been repeated reports (e.g. by CNN) that the already ridiculous prior Californian recommendation of 223 thousand USD had been upped to an amount that must be considered utterly absurd, even literally insane—5 million.* (In addition to which there has been talk of separate on-going payments.) To put this in perspective, consider e.g. that (a) 5 million USD is likely to exceed the life-time income of most individuals even** in the U.S., (b) for most, it is outright and immediate retirement money and, with the right investments, it would be enough to live very comfortably from birth to death of old age, (c) there appears to have been almost 22 million millionaires in the U.S. as of February 2022, while there are currently around twice that many Blacks. Looking at (c), far from all of those Blacks would eligible, even should the scheme be made nationwide, but there would still be a very, very major shift in the demographics of millionaires and the proportion of Black quintuple millionaires would be far higher than for e.g. Whites, showing how correspondingly disproportionate the amount would be, even if we were to accept the (faulty) premise that reparations were a good idea.

*In both cases, per Black fulfilling some set of criteria that are in no proportion to the amount at hand.

**The incomes of high-earners in e.g. Germany, let alone e.g. Sweden, tend to be much smaller than in the U.S. (Moreover, international, and to some part intra-national, comparisons must consider factors like local purchasing power.)

Indeed, the amount is so utterly absurd that I see it as near* sufficient proof of a deliberate attempt to implement one of my items in [2], that the amounts are intended to “(a) driv[e] up enthusiasm among the potential recipients, (b) prevent[] reparations from actually being implemented. This will then create a near perpetual Noble Cause, which the Left could milk for decades.”.

*The level of derangement of the Left must not be underestimated and I cannot rule out that some combination of grave incompetence, derangement, and, indeed, literal insanity is the true explanation. Then again, more than one simultaneous explanation is possible.

From another perspective, there are valid causes for reparations to other groups that are never raised.* Consider e.g. the damage done by politicians through flawed COVID-countermeasures, high taxes with disproportionately small benefits, artificially lowered growth, the recent high inflation, and whatnot. A much more worthy action would be to e.g. demand reparations from Leftist voters to non-Leftist voters; from the likes of Biden, Trudeau, Merkel to their respective peoples; from the likes of Fauci, Birx, Ferguson to those who have been left suffering in the wake of their lies or incompetence;** from those who voted in favor of flawed measures in plebiscites to those who voted against;*** etc.

*Also note remarks in [1] on reparations from Blacks to the rest of the population.

**Of course, even the sum of the private fortunes of these would just be a drop in the ocean, but I speak in principle. (Other practical problems often occur, e.g. how to identify who-voted-how with certainty and without unduly violating the secrecy of the ballot.)

***Consider e.g. the Swedish plebiscite on nuclear power, which resulted in the decision to abolish—contrary to what was reasonable even with the knowledge of the time. While this has still not happened, more than forty years later, there has/have been a severe reduction in prior capacity, a failure to add new capacity, a failure to research new and better nuclear technologies, increased energy costs, increased pollution, and similar (relative a Sweden with a more sensible outcome). (Here and below, I gloss over complications like that the ballots arguably were rigged and that Swedish plebiscites are only advisory. Cf. e.g. parts of [3].)

Excursion on voting and security deposits:
An interesting idea is that some types of vote might be combined with a security deposit* proportionate to the stakes involved. This would reduce the number of voters and might skew the voting demographic, but it would also force the voters to put their money where their mouths are and would give the victims of flawed decisions some recompense. Take Sweden and nuclear power (cf. above footnote): With a deposit of (the equivalent of) a thousand modern USD, the decision might have gone the other way; if it did not, there might have been a considerable sum available to reduce the negative effects, to restart nuclear-power programs, and similar.

*To be repaid immediately to those on the losing side of the vote and at some predefined time, when consequences are expected to be clear, to those on the winning side—unless, of course, the consequences are negative, in which case the deposits are used for damage control, reparations, whatnot.

(Beware that this is a spur of the moment idea that would need considerably more thought before any actual implementation attempt. A particular issue is how to prevent politicians from denying actual consequences and from pushing absurd priorities in the face of problems, as Germany has done with nuclear power after Fukushima.)

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Written by michaeleriksson

January 28, 2023 at 2:59 am

Follow-up: On the idiocy of reparations to U.S. Blacks

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As a follow-up to an earlier text on misguided reparations ([1]), a few thoughts from other angles:

  1. The absurd amounts* often involved can have the dual good-for-the-Left effect of (a) driving up enthusiasm among the potential recipients, (b) preventing reparations from actually being implemented. This will then create a near perpetual Noble Cause, which the Left could milk for decades.

    *For instance, the recent Californian suggestion (cf. link in [1]) names more than 200 grand for each recipient—and for a likely not exhaustive set of reasons, implying that more money could eventually be forthcoming. This amount, however and even in the U.S., would equal more than the yearly income for almost everyone, and might reach ten times the yearly income for real low earners.

  2. Even absent (maybe, particularly absent) actual reparations, the constant talk of them can lead to a sense of entitlement, distort history, and bring on an even further increase in anti-White animosity—after all, if powerful White men tell Blacks that they have been mistreated by powerful White men, why should they be skeptical?
  3. State* measures could lead to massive side-effects in terms of internal migration, with Blacks moving to where the expected pot of gold is and others (including important employers—not just individuals) moving away to not be hit by taxes. Worse, if more than one state has a program, we could see Blacks move to collect repeatedly.

    *Again, like suggested in California.

Written by michaeleriksson

December 4, 2022 at 2:18 pm

On the idiocy of reparations to U.S. Blacks

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The issue of “reparations” has repeatedly raised its ugly head over the last few years, especially with regard to U.S. Blacks*. For instance, yesterday, I encountered an article ([1]) on far-Left Governor Newsom’s California and the risk for reparations regarding housing (!) of descendants of slaves. Apart from the ever-recurring issue of U.S. Blacks, consider e.g. various environmental or “colonial” reparations.

*For the purposes of this text, I will usually use the word to refer to “African Americans” believed to have at least one Sub-Saharan ancestor who lived in the U.S. during the slavery era (whether slave or not) and, when appropriate, these ancestors and the intervening generations. When contextually clear, the implication might be close to “ADOS”, if in doubt because there will likely often be a blanket assumption of descent-from-slaves for those whose ancestors have been in the U.S. long enough. I will not include recent and voluntary immigrants from Africa.

Virtually without exception, these demands are ridiculous, illogical, and would result in great unfairness, if implemented.

Below, I will go into more detail, but, considering the type of “debate” that tends to surround these issues, I am compelled to first address the (pseudo-)argumentation often provided in favor of reparations, which almost invariably hinges on either the idea of bad things from the past still doing considerable damage today and/or on the myth of anti-Black “systemic racism”. (And exceptions might include far worse nonsense, e.g. some idea of original sin or the belief that Blacks of today should be favored because Blacks in the past were disfavored—regardless of e.g. equality of opportunity.) Both require proof from their proponents; no such proof, barring disparities in outcome, has been presented. Disparities in outcome, however, are by no means proof of disparities in opportunity. (Here we see a partial explanation of why the Left clings so desperately to that out-dated and disproved “nurture only” nonsense.) A full discussion of counter-arguments goes outside the scope of this text, but I note, in addition to parts of the below, that there is plenty of social mobility for those with the brains and ambition to use it, that too much of the help already given is squandered, and that some other groups that have suffered greatly, including the Jews, do much better on average*. I also point to e.g. “The Bell-Curve” for more information on the differences in I.Q. distributions and the strong correlations that I.Q. has with outcomes. (And here we see a partial explanation of why the Left fails to use arguments to discuss “The Bell-Curve”, and instead resorts to hysterical cries of “Racism!”.) Above all, in as far as the term “systemic racism” has any justification, it describes a decidedly pro-Black and anti-White/-Asian phenomenon.

*Throughout the text, any statements about groups should be seen as “on average”, “when comparing averages”, or similar. It will not be spelled out in the continuation.

To continue with specifically slavery reparations (see excursion for others):

  1. The current generations of Blacks are considerably better off than corresponding groups that remained in Africa. As great a disfavor as slavery indisputably was to the slaves, this does not automatically apply to the descendants, and the reparations movement has so far failed to deliver proof of such a disfavor. In a twist, the way that human biology works, none of the current Blacks (or Whites) would even be alive without the U.S. slavery import.*

    *It is not enough for the exact same parents to have a child to see someone from this reality born in an alternate reality—we have to have the exact same sperm and egg, and likely some additional circumstances that are favorable. This for just one first-generation person. For a second-generation person, we need both his parents to have been born identically, to have had sex with each other, and for the exact same sperm and egg to have met—and we have had much more than two generations since the proposed reality split.

  2. Determining who is what and who might “deserve” what type of reparation is a virtual impossibility. (Even should we be open to reparations in principle.) There are, indeed, many Blacks who have both slaves and slave owners in their family trees. Most Blacks have at least some White blood—and many are more European than African in sum. Many have admixtures from other groups, including later voluntary immigrants from Africa. To complicate matters, not all Blacks back then were slaves; and, of those who were, not everyone was treated in the same manner, not all were slaves for the same length of time, etc.

    Then there is the issue of proof, complicated not only by scant written records, but also by infidelity, adoption, and other potential causes for mistaken relationships.* Use too strict criteria and many will be excluded for not being able to prove facts that are in their favor; use too lax criteria and many will be included who should not have been—among them deliberate fraudsters.

    *Note the risk that someone believes that his great-great-great-whatnot was a slave, but that the actual great-great-great-whatnot was not.

    And what about those whose ancestors were injured, but who do not reside in the U.S.?

  3. Vice versa, how do we determine who should pay?* Most Whites had nothing to do with slaves to begin with, many actively fought against slavery, and the abolishment of slavery is thanks to Whites. Even those who had slaves were more hindered than helped by it, from all what I have read, and slavery strongly contributed to holding the Southern economy back—contrary to the myths spread by the Left.** (And even for those few who might have profited, similar arguments as below apply. Chances are that the benefit was gone within no more than a few generations.)

    *No, the government never pays. The money might come from the government in the short term, but sooner or later the people is hit with the bill, be it through taxes, inflation, or some other mechanism.

    **The claim, in particular, that modern U.S. wealth would go back to slavery is so utterly absurd and preposterous that it beggars belief.

    In truth, the most natural source for reparations would be the original slave catchers/sellers—many or most of whom were other Africans. (Again, contrary to the myths spread by the Left.)

    Then, regardless of whether Whites or slave catchers/sellers are held responsible, we are talking ancestors, while current generations are innocent.

  4. But let us say that we somehow, magically, manage to straighten out the preceding items and find a reasonable solution. Let us also say that we look at a self-made Black millionaire. Whatever system is used would now either give or not give him money (or some other recompense). If we do give him money, how is that fair to the many dirt-poor Whites? If we do not give him money, how is that fair to him, who is now punished for his success, while some lazy petty criminal with a similar ancestry still receives money?
  5. Current day Blacks already receive massive net benefits, notably in form of government money for this-and-that at a much higher rate than Whites and while they pay much less in taxes than Whites. This often (depending on age) applies/d to parents or even grand-parents too.

    (Assume e.g. a difference of just one grand a year over a life-span of 70 years, and we have 70 grand. Scale that one grand up, and the overall amount rises accordingly—and one grand is likely to be ridiculously cautious.)

    Then there is the massive non-monetary help, e.g. in form of “affirmative action” and other pro-Black racial discrimination, which is of enormous benefit to the Blacks (and of enormous detriment to everyone else). Even in terms of yearly (!) outcomes, the effect will often amount to thousands or tens of thousands USD going to the one instead of the other. (To this, on the detriment side, we have to add negative consequences through e.g. a lowering of competence levels relative a world with free competition.)

    Adding reparations would imply heaping recompense upon help, with no regard for the fact that this help already outweighs any damage done many times over.

  6. Similarly, there is the issue of massive prior repayment through the Civil War, where countless lives were lost and enormous destruction followed. Should that count for nothing—or should it rather imply a clean slate? Maybe even, relative the North and the U.S. as a whole, a debt of gratitude, while the guilt is limited to the South, were it belongs?*

    *Here we see a common complication with the narrow-minded Leftist “identity politics”, “intersectionality”, and the like—and another demonstration of why these Leftist ideas are absurd: Whites are too often collectively considered guilty for something that just a sub-group did, but receive no credit for stopping the behavior of the sub-group. (Similarly, there is too little differentiation between ancestor and descendant, both for Blacks and Whites.)

    (To this can be added many other efforts of the day, be it by White individuals or the White government, to help. They drown in size compared to the Civil War, but were certainly important in their day and would, even taken alone, have gone a long way to balance the scales for future generations.)

  7. For all practical purposes, reparations amount to (a) awarding something to the first for crimes committed against the second, (b) taking that something from the third for crimes committed by the fourth.
  8. There is an issue of intergenerational changes (also relevant to understanding the previous item): the advantages and disadvantages that the one generation has, in most cases, affect the next generation to a far lesser degree. This in part, because own accomplishments matter more or much more to our success in life than our parents’ for almost all of us; in part, because advantages and disadvantages (of an external character) fade over time.

    To consider a specific example of the latter, say that someone, for whatever reason, receives a lump sum of money today. How much of that lump sum will eventually be inherited by each descendant? The answer will, of course, depend on both time and how many descendants there are, but, in most cases, I suspect that most of the money will be gone* through various types of additional spending, inflation, whatnot—and, with more than one inheritor,** the rest is then split into portions. For instance, 20 grand extra today might be reduced to 2 grand in today’s value at the time of death—and then be split into 1 grand each for two children. Each of the children are then 1 grand better off—not 10, let alone 20. A generation after that? You do the math. The same with education: whether a married couple consists of two Ph.D. holders or two high-school dropouts will merely influence, not determine, the education level of the children, and the effect will be even weaker on the grand-children, and weaker yet on further generations. (Outside of mostly genetic correlations in various traits, notably I.Q., but they too drop off rapidly over a few generations, barring some variation of “selective breeding”.)

    *By no means specific to Blacks. The same issue is common among Whites and, in a society that expects children to fend for themselves when reaching adulthood, perfectly normal.

    **Typically, only descendants in the next generation are included among the inheritors, and I assume, for the sake of simplicity, that next-generation-descendant and inheritor are the same thing. (Disregarding e.g. a surviving spouse, any stipulations made by will, etc.)

    As an aside, it might here matter less how much the current generation has, for the wealth of the next, than how thrifty it is, how well it invests, how many children there are in the next generation, etc. As a thought experiment, take two couples, both with a sum of X to pass on. Assume no inflation, no spending, no whatnot, and that the couples and their descendants only differ in fecundity, with the one family averaging (geometrically) 2 children per set of parents, and the other 3. In three generations time, the one family has X divided onto 8 persons, the other onto 27; in four generations time, they are at 16 and 81 (!) respectively. Assume that the one couple and their descendants manage to double their money every generation, keeping wealth constant at X per person, while the members of the other family use up all money at once, keeping wealth constant at 0 per person. Etc.

  9. Of course, the previous item has another side to it, namely the potential waste for future generations of reparations given today. Let us say that every current Black adult receives 200 grand in a lump sum: What will the effect be? Some might use it for investments, put it in the bank,* or spend it on education** for the children, but chances are that most would spend it fairly quickly and with little value for the future generations. Even outside drug-using circles, Blacks (and many low-income Whites) are known for being careless with their money,*** windfall money tends to be spent less cautiously than earned money, and considering how much e.g. cars, kitchens, jewelry for her or “bling” for him, brand sneakers, etc. can cost, the rate of drain can be expected to be high. Or imagine what a single trip to Las Vegas could do. Some will burn through the 200 grand in a year, others might need ten or twenty, but chances are that there will not be much left for the descendants in most cases—and that the descendants have no real benefit in the interim either. What then? A new round of reparations for the next generation, in the hope that “this time it will work”?****

    *Note current low interest rates and high inflation. More generally, note that those popular calculations of “If you had invested one cent [long time ago] you would have had [enormous amount of money] today!!!” fail to consider inflation, bank fees, the risk of the bank going insolvent, whatnot, and should be taken with a handful of grains of salt. This especially when someone argues that “A Black slave suffered a damage of [small amount]—now we owe all of his ancestors [large amount] because of interest!!!”, where we have to add complications like those discussed above, including the high likelihood that this [small amount] would have been used for short-term consumption instead of investment, had it remained with/been given to the ancestor.

    **But keep in mind that today’s U.S. education is more of a racket than something worthwhile. Moreover that getting an education is mostly a matter of own brains and own time spent—what the money buys is the fancy diploma. (And that only if the students actually graduate…)

    ***This goes back a long time. For instance, one of Fredrick Douglass’s books describes how some of the former slaves worked hard during the week and then spent their earnings, come Sunday, riding up-and-down the main street in expensively hired carriages. (To my recollection, this was intended to show that they could afford the rides, which they, by any reasonable standard, actually could not.)

    ****Which is what politicians in general, Leftist politicians in particular, and Leftist politicians dealing with Blacks in the very particular, always seem to do: try something, watch it fail, and then try it again with more money or with a new quack-theory to support it.

    Paradoxically, it might be the drug users who leave more behind, as they might kill themselves the more prematurely through the sudden abundance of drugs…

  10. Blacks come with an enormous cost to U.S. society, through various monetary payments, distortions of college admissions, lowering of graduation criteria, violent crimes, thefts, riots, whatnot. This more than offsets the damage that might have been done to the Blacks. Then there is the issue of distortions of the electorate that have allowed the likes of Biden and Newsom to be elected in the first place… (And note that even those who are naive about the economic consequences of Biden’s and Newsom’s policies, in general, are hard-pressed to be so with regard to the devastating and unnecessary effects of specifically the COVID-countermeasures.)

    Without a doubt, the U.S. and the U.S. Whites would have been far better off had slaves never been imported or had the Blacks been shipped back to Africa, at more or less any cost, after the Civil War. Today, if anything, reparations from the Blacks to the rest of the U.S. would be more appropriate.

  11. If we have equality of opportunity for today’s generations, adding reparations on top of that would be extraordinarily unfair—and Blacks are over-favored by a considerable distance relative e.g. Whites, and likely have been so for several decades, making a denial of equal-or-better opportunities for Blacks absurd.

Excursion on other Black-related reparations:
Of course, looking at any given claimed cause for reparations, the list might look differently, but the general drift still applies. As a particularity, we have to take great care not to attribute to e.g. “continued discrimination” or “systemic racism” that which has other explanations, including personal failures and non-racist sorting effects. For instance, there are strong signs that neighborhoods with a large Black population turn bad, because such neighborhoods tend to contain too many bad seeds, low-IQ individuals, etc.—as opposed to hateful Leftist propaganda that Blacks are shoved into bad neighborhoods by evil racist Whites. Another important aspect is the rapidity of social mobility, for those sufficiently bright, hard working, whatnot, which implies that even someone who starts off poorly is likely to do well for himself—with the right brain, attitude, whatnot, and regardless of skin color. Ditto, as counterpoint, the many cases of Blacks holding themselves or other Blacks back through a faulty attitude, e.g. by condemning those ambitious and hard-working for “acting White” and preferring Black “gangsta rappers” as role models over White/Jewish/Asian professionals.

Excursion on taxation:
Further complications can arise through taxation, e.g. if reparations are considered taxable income. This especially if individual states, like California, have their own ideas. We might then have Californian tax payers kneeling under the additional burden to pay for reparations to the Blacks, only to have the federal government scope out a significant portion of the reparations in renewed taxes on the recipients.

Excursion on returning this-and-that:
A similar family of errors is found in the return of “stolen” or whatnot items to various indigenous groups or foreign countries. In some cases, there might be justification,* but, mostly, this amounts to hogwash. Consider that many of the items in question were legally acquired (gifts, honest purchases, whatnot); that they would very often have been destroyed over time, had they remained local; that they were not necessarily very valuable to the locals at the time; that the locals might not appreciate them today (and that they might then soon be lost to humanity); that an often great time has passed and that there is need for some type of statute of limitations, if in doubt because it can be hard or impossible to determine a modern rightful owner and/or because the connection through time has grown too weak;** that there is a benefit to spreading culture, knowledge, and understanding; etc. For a potentially*** interesting example on several counts, consider specimens of Rongorongo writing.

*I was going to cite as examples a few obelisks taken from Egypt in reasonably modern times, but all three examples appear to have been removed from Egypt legally, as gifts from the then local rulers. The one objection that could be raised from a cultural point of view is the Ottoman aspect of those rulers—but that would still shift the blame and any duty to restore from the Westerners to the Ottomans resp. modern Turkey. (Cf. Cleopatra’s Needles and the Luxor Obelisks.)

**To continue the obelisk discussion: Many obelisks were removed from Egypt in classical times. If, say, a Roman emperor brought one to Rome, and it has remained in Rome ever since, who has the greater right to it—the modern day Italians or the modern day Egyptians? Both Italy and Egypt have some continuity, however, and the question might be even worse for, say, some U.S. Indian constellation, where the original makers of an artefact are long gone from the area where the artefact was discovered, and any current tribe living in the vicinity might have as little connection as the Whites.

***This will, in part, depend on what actually took place and what accounts are reliable. Such uncertainties are themselves an example of a related and more general phenomenon of losses and changes within societies—and losses and changes that go largely undocumented in societies without a sufficient tradition of record keeping, preservation, and whatnot.

Written by michaeleriksson

December 3, 2022 at 6:52 am