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Initial post: Aug 22, 2008 1:24:20 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 22, 2008 1:27:46 PM PDT
Barack Obama favors reparations for slavery>

Reparations for slavery

Viewed from an economic perspective, proposed reparations to be paid to living and future African Americans as descendants and therefore victims of slavery, is a form of economic damages. It is an interesting lesson to consider how, in general terms; a dispassionate economist would approach the question of economic damages in reparations for slavery; especially if the analysis can be kept free of politics and rhetoric. Such an analysis is useful because it raises issues and considerations that are far too often overlooked in the heated climate of racial politics.

Economic damages are determined as of the date of harm and looking forward by estimating the extent of damages from a certain harmful act to the aggrieved party based on a consideration of the "real world" that occurred due to the act in comparison to the world which would have occurred "but for" the harmful act.
To be equitable and efficient, the quantity of damages must be reasonably determinable and considered in light of the value of any mitigation of losses.

In assessing damages, the number we are looking for is the sum and total of the value lost by each person who was enslaved as of the time they were enslaved and at any dates of harm in between then and now which were incidental to the original act of enslavement.

The first problem that African Americans would have to contend with if their quest for reparations was based on a claim of justice (rather than political pandering or coercion) is to specify accurately what the "but for" world would have looked like for each of the human beings taken into slavery. If, let us say, the individuals would have remained in Africa and if Africa would have developed along the lines of the Unites States because of the talents of these people or others, then of course economic damages would be large and in the order of the value of the cumulative wealth of the United States.

On the other hand, a competent lawyer might argue that economic damages are small simply because in reflecting on the current state of life and living in Africa the likely "but for world" from the date of enslavement till today would have been one of subsistence and a continual threat of political disruption, corruption, disease and murder. In such a "but for" world It is not even clear damages would positive in comparison to the "real world" we know and have known to exist under and since slavery in America. Negative damages are admittedly unusual, but it does happen and might happen from such a point a view that damages are negative. That is to say that the claimants are today better off than they would have been had their ancestors not have been enslaved.

While the concept of negative damages is not one likely to be accepted gracefully; it is not an impossible outcome. Many, in fact most, Americans today enjoy a better life because of the struggle of their prior generations-slaves or otherwise. It is far from obvious that with the benefit of knowledge about the state of the world today that the enslaved ancestors of today's African Americans themselves would not say that their own sacrifice was worth it to bring their descendants into a world of opportunity and democracy.

In addition to great and reasonable doubts about the measure of economic harm, if any, resulting from slavery, the accurate quantification of damages would surely have to consider important mitigating factors. One of the most valuable of all possible mitigating factors would have to be consideration of the value of the 300,000 or so military deaths in the American Civil War. These casualties of war were largely occasioned at the time by a motive on the part of the soldiers and their families to achieve abolition of slavery. The act was plainly an act of moral atonement and mitigation. In any accurate assessment of damages this fact cannot be ignored and is likely to be highly material to the overall quantification of damages.

A second obvious mitigating factor would be the cumulative cost of the giant social welfare programs aimed at the amelioration of conditions in the African American community during much of the 20th Century. Many Billions of American taxpayer dollars have been spent by the Federal, state and local governments for housing, education, social services and medical services - all for the sole purpose of benefiting the African American community and as an act of good faith to remedy the many alleged Civil Rights abuses during and since slavery in America.

No thinking person doubts that slavery was wrong and morally reprehensible. The question of the degree of economic harm and reparations that might be due the ancestors of slaves today, however, is still very much in doubt. In civil matters monetary awards to plaintiffs can only be achieved when both an act of liability and a measure of economic harm can be proven based on a preponderance of the evidence.

On the one hand, I believe it would be just to hold a trial on the questions of economic damages from slavery. Such a trial would occasion far ranging and careful debate aimed at setting the issue aside for now and forever. On the other hand, I believe any resulting measure of damages will in fact be small or negative if undertaken analytically, dispassionately and objectively in the spirit of true justice as informed by the received common law and the economic theories behind modern legal statutes.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 23, 2008 9:43:56 AM PDT
Ben S. says:
We've paid out trillions of dollars in reparations already. When it comes down to brass tax, that's all welfare, food stamps and affirmative action programs are. The result? It turned our inner cities into predatory jungles. It's time for a welfare reparations refund.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 23, 2008 1:00:37 PM PDT
Yes I agree that all these considerations must be accounted for dollar for dollar in present value as mitigation. You do a nice job of adding to the list. This is obviously a sensitive subject, but the facts of the economic analysis seem irrefutable if we remove emotions and racial hatred and just look at the facts.

Doe anyone know how I can fix the typo in teh title???

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 23, 2008 6:52:10 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 23, 2008 6:52:52 PM PDT
thames says:
When will people learn? slavery happened 190 years ago!! the culture of victimhood is the problem, it is time to let go of the past and take responsibility. i also believe that racism is playing a factor in barack obama's popularity but it is to politicaly incorrect to say something obvious like that, i just wish people would be color blind like McCain has wisely said he is in favor of when decideing who to vote for

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 23, 2008 10:00:30 PM PDT
You raise the interesting question of the actual date of harm. I am just guessing, but I assume you are dating to the end of slavery. Although the Emancipation Proclamation was more like 144 years ago. But, it would also be my expectations that the owning of slaves began in the 17th century or earlier and there were slaves in the US no later that 1680. In basic terms that would suggest that decedents of the first slaves would have been harmed around 328 years ago or before.

The matter of harm poses an interesting question because we can be sure that new slaves entered the market all the time and not all salves have decedents because for one reason or another their line was nog continued or cannot be established with certainty.

It is likely that this case will have to be litigated as a class action. So in the face of all the uncertainly about the date of harm there will be several problems in establishing whether all the members of the class are similarly situated. A high likely result is that it should be decided ahead of time to establish a trust fund based on the earliest date harm but considering a weighted average of population change until the end of slavery at the Emancipation Proclammation.

The original expectation is that for those plaintiffs who cannot prove their line, they will be awarded damages (if any) based on the assumption that their date of harm was the average. Unless it proves more valuable due to the calculation of damages, we can expect that applicants will not want to prove a date of harm earlier than the average. Applicants with provable harm earlier than the average will likely have incentives to prove it. Hence, setting up the trust with expectations that an overage will be returned to the defendant at the end of the application period seems the optimal plan.

Of course. this is just a preliminary sketch of a given approach. The real approach will be shaped by the theory, data and arguments before the court in the class certification hearings.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 29, 2008 11:54:00 PM PDT
Bigshaker says:
I've always thought slaery was a terrible thing, and that people who suffered from slaery should be given reparations, so I was heartened to see this topic, "Slaery Reparations," on Amazon because it's rare that people ever take slaery seriously. In fact, people are so dismissive of the topic that slaery isn't even in the dictionary, which is a shame. But maybe this is a sign that slaery is in the distant past and we should all just move on.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 30, 2008 12:27:24 AM PDT
I'd like to figure out how to correct the typo.

I guess I could delete the group and open it again. Any ideas? I probably did it at 4AM and just did not look. I have neuropathy in my fingers and I do not type well.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 30, 2008 6:32:39 AM PDT
Bigshaker says:
I'm afraid I don't know how to correct it, Mr. Gartrell, but despite my attempt to inject a little humor, I wouldn't worry about it - I think everyone knows what was intended.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 30, 2008 7:06:17 AM PDT
yes of course ... you did well. But it is aggravating there is no way to edit

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 8, 2008 3:48:53 PM PDT
Mike L says:
Mr. Gartrell, You are very articulate, despite a typo or two (happens to the best of us), and I enjoyed reading your threads! Instead of direct reparations, welfare, etc, I think we need to invest in education and change the culture of the country (all races). There is a welfare mentality that affects people of all races, and in those circles (be it the projects or the trailer park) people who try to better themselves are often teased or threatened. Any one time or even ongoing reparations cannot come close to giving people the qualify of life they'd get when they have a good education and become part of society (decent job, home ownership, insurance, etc). Do we give every wronged person a $50,000.00 check once, or help them make $50,000.00 (or $500,000.00) a YEAR for the rest of their lives? You have an interesting idea that reparations would be hard to quantify and may even be break even or negative due to past programs. In reality, it would be impossible since value is a relative thing. There are still living civil rights activists who saw their father beaten or mother raped, which is certainly different than a kid wearing $200 shoes and listening to an Ipod but heard from his Grandma that things were tough when she was a girl. Anyway, I agree with you that reparations would be a mess and leave some feeling shorted and slighted while others who have never felt real poverty or loss might get something for nothing. Better use of that money would be to make sure all people have the opportunity to get an education and a good job, regardless of race, finance or other variables such as lack of child care that might prevent someone from being able better themselves.

A couple of observations or suggestions:

Perhaps we should stop paying for schools with property tax dollars, which of course ensures sub-par schools in impoverished areas that have lower home values. If we outfitted all schools equally to ensure that all students have equal opportunities, the investment would pay off and not only improve life for African-Americans, but would undoubtedly tap unknown talents and skills that might cure Cancer or invent new technologies to benefit the world.

How about a rule such as when you are on welfare, you have to get dressed and come to "work" every day for your check. Instead of working a job, you take classes and learn how to support yourself. We can take empty factories and out of business stores and make them into learning centers complete with daycare pre-school (creating more jobs). Seems silly to pay someone to go to school, but if you spend extra now to educate people and get them off the system, the long term savings will pay off. Just think if we could break a generation of welfare families and stop the cycle having babies who get on welfare and stay home having more babies?

Give a man a fish and he eats today, teach him to fish and he eats everyday!

Anyway, enjoyed your post.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 22, 2008 3:29:54 PM PDT
The Whistler says:
Consider this regarding Reparations argument--BLACK AFRICAN TRADERS sold their own country men and women into slavery. Black African Countries used the barter system at the time and slaves were as good as gold!! The slave trade had been going on for centuries until countries like England and the Unites States stopped international Black slavery. Also take into account the thousands of White Males who were killed freeing black slaves.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 27, 2008 9:22:36 PM PDT
ClearLogic says:
One thing you would have to account for also, is the fact that the majority of slaves were here before we became a nation. So, you might need to shake down the Britts. If you read the writings of the founding fathers you will find that most of them were opposed to slavery but knew that they could not get the southern colonies on board if they outlawed slavery, thus we would not have had the strength for fighting for independence. Jefferson, who at one time owned slaves, but also spoke against it, wrote that it would become a great problem the nation must face in the not so far distant future, and he was right. It's also important to note that many blacks lived in the North and were free very early on. In fact, they actually could vote in New York and I believe a couple other colonies. Also, many blacks were and in fact still are slaves in Africa today. The dirty little secret that is not widely known. Also, since Muslims almost entirely controlled the African slave market (selling them to the rest of the world), how would you hold them accountable?

The entire world for most of it's history was involved in slavery, including all of Africa(black on black).

As another wrote here, it was the United States and England that were responsible for outlawing African Slavery. What credit should be allocated them for ridding the world(largely) of this multi-millennial practice?
An interesting little side note....
John Newton, the guy who wrote the song Amazing Grace, himself formerly involved in the transporting of slaves before becoming a Christian, was largely responsible for England's ban on slavery.

One last point, which was raised by another, but which I also have myself thought "what about the tens of thousands of people who died trying to end slavery. My family traces back to pre-Revolutionary War America on both my mother's and father's side. I have many relatives that died or lost limbs in the Civil War, fighting for the end of slavery. Should we receive reparations also? I would think that most black Americans would, if they had to choose, (and especially if they actually saw the genocide, aids,malaria, poverty, and other conditions in most of Africa would thank God that they live here, as unfortunate as the cost was to some of their ancestors.

The very concept of Reparations is absurd. Non of my ancestors owned slaves. The vast majority of Americans never owned slaves. If you want to try to sue someone, find the ones that actually owned slaves. Then of course, there is also, no legal remedy for this under law anyway, it would have to be made up. It also would be impossible for most blacks to establish their lineage. With 90% being born into single parent homes and with a very high percentage of their siblings from different fathers, who like Barack Obama's father were either foriegners or recent( in the last 75 yrs) immigrants and were never related to slaves, at least in this country.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 4, 2008 2:16:58 AM PST
36303hDog says:
Absolutely this argument is family was not even in America until well after slavery was abolished. I should not have to pay for these sins. Anyway, Barack Obama's father was from Kenya...his family probably did not endure slavery or his father would have been born here. So Barack will not enact such ridiculous policies that will destroy this nation. Anyway, by the simple logic that not all Americans participated in slavery, courts would find this action unconstitutional. Affirmative Action is already making up for lost time...these laws will be in effect for a while and have taxed many (lost job oppportunities, college scholarships) who had nothing to do with the oppression of blacks.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 4, 2008 2:27:15 AM PST
36303hDog says:
If not done carefully, such proposals would render the United States a third world country for its foreseeable future...just imagine the cost of such a suit! If all our debt collectors came knocking today...the United States would be in foreclosure (read imminent war or economic embargoes) as it is. Can I sue for what our country has become in the last 8 years and its impact on my life? let's just not repeat history and accept all people, strive for educational excellence, and help all have the opportunity to lead this nation in different ways if they so choose.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 19, 2008 8:57:36 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Mar 12, 2009 8:18:50 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 7, 2009 8:41:35 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 7, 2009 9:50:43 PM PST
*gen* says:
I was about to add the same sentiments (as Mike L); I'm glad that I kept reading.

There have been many of times I've heard interviews and comments from people about how Obama is "one of us." He is not on many levels. As his father is African, technically, his ancestors sold theirs into slavery.

AND Obama does favor "redistribution of wealth" and "economic justice" as he stated in a 2001 interview; the context in which he was discussing these new terms were exactly what "reparations" are. There was no inclusion of the poor or minorities outside of his own in his discussion. This allows him to push the same point to his intended audience as "goodies for you" and yet deny it to everyone else because he didn't technically say so.

It's a common tactic for lawyers. If you actually listen to the man, he will contradict himself within the same speech. He is extremely talented at it; everyone in the audience hears their own point of view from him. He phrases his words in a way that audience members hear what they want, yet he never really states his actual intentions. It's a wonder he wasn't successful lawyer.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 7, 2009 9:37:38 PM PST
*gen* says:
Okay... as far as property taxes for schools, it doesn't exactly work that way. I've always thought so as well until I became a teacher and started going to finance committees and board meetings, etc.

Apparently, there is a cap on how much a school district can collect from property taxes. Anything above that cap goes straight to the state for redistribution. So the fact that some school district taxes here are extremely high makes no sense at all, other than they can because they have "good" schools. You also have to factor in that businesses pay property taxes as well (Houston ISD has downtown to collect).

Money in addition to that comes from state and federal levels. It's all very fishy, but once you sit in on various meeting, it starts adding up.

Schools receive additional money for test scores; they receive additional money from the College Board based on the number of AP tests administered (not passed); they receive additional money for having X amount of minority students and funding increases accordingly; our ISD received millions to establish smaller learning communities; there are millions given in grants for "pilot" programs (such as SLC's and back in my years, block scheduling). In Texas, there's a lot of money for winning sports teams (they hide it well though). Additional money is received for every special education students (all though none for gifted students as far as I can find). More recently (as in not ten years ago), "economically disadvantaged" students became a minority category. Those that are economically disadvantaged and in racial minority category are worth even more to school than either alone.

Putting the pieces together, schools loose funding from students being absent (minority groups having high numbers of absences). Indirectly, they also loose money with low test scores (teachers make easy scapegoats for low test scores).

What we need to do is follow what some educationally successful countries do and collect money for education, and distribute a set amount per student. Children have no choice where and under what circumstances in which they were born. Perhaps we could even make extracurricular activities extracurricular rather than a class taking up school time. Maybe stop all the "extra" funding for this special interest group or that one.

If we did that, we could eliminate a lot of useless wasting of money. We could eliminate many positions of administrators and hire two additional teachers for the same pay as one of them. Examples: one person's job is score benchmarks and handle the "security" of the state tests; there's one person for each core subject as an instructional specialist (this would be great if their focus was instruction; it's actually keeping track of students who are worth more as far as testing and running a statistics software aimed at holding teachers accountable); then there is a dean of instruction whose job is to walk around, evaluate teachers, talk at meeting, over see the instructional specialists. If we hired just one teacher to replace each of those, that would be six additional teachers without increasing the budget. That's just one high school campus.

More teachers and lower class loads are what we need as teachers in high schools. Our workload is so high that it gets very stressful and disheartening. That affects your teaching greatly. Example: I have three separate courses to teach (all science; all with labs to prepare myself; one of them college level; two of them with at least 50% at risk students who I have to document and track individually), six classes total, and around 150 students. I'm required to grade at least twelve items per report card (you can do the calculations). The pay is okay, until you take into fact the amount of work you actually do. And with new laws, policies, and agendas from administrators to "get more money", it just keeps getting worse.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 9, 2009 5:42:05 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Mar 12, 2009 8:19:04 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 9, 2009 6:17:40 PM PST
*gen* says:
If you could read, you would see that no one here has said that Obama has every stated those words. Therefore, you extremely biased point of view is absolutely invalid.

If you could read, you would see in transcripts that Obama has said "economic justice" and "redistribution of wealth" in the same context in which former political leaders have used slavery reparations.

However, if Obama stated "reparations" in its traditional terminology, he would also be financially culpable because his ancestors, being those remaining in Africa, were directly involved in slave trade of ancestors of black Americans. I don't think he would EVER use that phrase for this reason.

I have read plenty of words from this man and about this man before forming any type of opinion of him whatsoever. It is called EDUCATION, the opposite of ignorance.

If you could think, maybe you would see the frightening truth behind Obama's character.

You have single-handedly squashed an intellectual conversation by having no intellect. I hope that anyone whom reads the posts on this forum will respond to you in the same manner, ignores your lacking qualities, and continues this conversation like civilized humans.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 10, 2009 12:07:27 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Mar 12, 2009 8:19:14 PM PDT]
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Initial post:  Aug 22, 2008
Latest post:  Jan 10, 2009

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