Reparations – Wouldn’t It Be Worth It?

Admission: I didn’t read The Case For Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates, which appeared in The Atlantic on May 21, 2014, and has since been liked and shared in my Facebook news feed by nearly every progressive or black person I know. I recognize the “reparations” argument as little more than socio-political trolling at this point, which doesn’t warrant serious intellectual attention. Furthermore, breathing life into these ancient racial issues over and over again ad nauseum does incredible damage to what little social fabric and trust we have remaining in American society, which is exactly the sort of social-identity fodder progressives need to fuel their national political machine.

But the subject matter did get me thinking this time around – wouldn’t it be worth it? Just imagine: one lump sum payment and we’re done with the slavery and white-privilege issues – forever.

How much would you pay to never have to see or listen to social-identity troll LZ Granderson ever again?


Like most litigation, the vast majority of discrimination lawsuits in this country are settled out of court. Most of them are predictably bogus on the merits and amount to little more than a disgruntled employee striking back at an employer out of spite with whatever weapons are legally available to them – race, sex, age, and disability being the most difficult to disprove and therefore most likely to survive the summary judgement phase of litigation. Employers settle nearly all of these lawsuits in the low five figures because A) it’s cheaper than proceeding to trial, B) it avoids any further bad publicity, and C) there is typically a non-disclosure agreement which bars the litigant from ever suing or discussing the matter again under penalty of voiding the settlement. Think of it as the simple cost of doing business in America because that’s what it is.

Wouldn’t it be *glorious* to structure a one-time nation-wide settlement in this manner with every black individual who signed on – say, in the $10,000 – $20,000 range (roughly 3% the cost of the Iraq War) – and never have to listen to “slavery reparations,” “institutionalized racism,” or “white privilege” rehashed ever again under penalty of settlement forfeiture and repayment?

No more affirmative action. No more Title VII litigation. No more MSNBC race panels or LZ Granderson CNN op-eds. Done. Forever.

How much would that be worth to you?


2 thoughts on “Reparations – Wouldn’t It Be Worth It?

  1. For what it’s worth, it is a really good article, harmed almost irreparably by the lack of a policy proposal. Of course that is also what makes the article so safe for people wracked with misplaced guilt to recommend. As always, popularity is inversely correlated with courage.

    As for reparations, my position is usually that developing a thick skin is far cheaper and more reliable than trying to buy friendship, particularly since, in the event of a victory, the grievance squads will simply move on to a new issue anyway.

    Having said that, there are some really interesting sideways proposals to deal with the underlying issue, like Morgan Warstler’s here: This sort of thing will never succeed in mollifying the perpetually outraged, though; that is simply not a reasonable goal.

    • I like the idea of guaranteed income as an improvement over the worst-of-all-worlds no-work welfare programs we have today (disability, unemployment, etc.). It rightly targets the incentives problems with the existing models, which all involve paying people to remain poor (so guess what the inevitable result is).

      My worry is that something of that nature would require so many safeguards to prevent the obvious kickback and exploitation schemes, and the market distortions it would cause would be so massive, that thecosts would overwhelm any benefits the program might offer. I’m all for experimentation though – maybe roll it out for a test run in one city first.

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