A Different Spin On Two Hot Topics: Slave Reparations And Social Security.

Disclaimer One: I am a libertarian in my political views. I am against both subjects. I have always felt that government interference into economic and social issues only causes more strife.

Disclaimer Two: This thread is partly inspired by Shodan’s brilliant rebuttals in another thread from about a week ago, which I cannot find right now, in which the subject was about Affirmative Action. It is also partly inspired by the fact that I have heard the topic of Slave Reparations come up a handful of times in the past month. Maybe the planets are aligned or something.

Slave Reparations and Social Security have both been on my mind lately. Maybe I have thought about them too much, and have passed over into that metaphysical unreality where everything, and nothing, makes sense, but here goes.

I feel that when the government dabbles in economic and social issues, it only leads to inflated supply or demand, and more social segregation. As the old sayings go, “The path to Hell is paved with good intentions,” and, “No good deed goes unpunished.” While a better outcome was envisioned for both subjects, reality has a nasty way of making the opposite come true.

I guess you could say, the mixing and remixing of the previous paragraph in my head led to a sort of epiphany. Maybe we should plan for the opposite to happen, and actually hope that it does.

Social Security. It was never supposed to bankroll the retirement plans of America’s elderly. Oh, well. So much for that.

But. I have the yearnings of an entrepreneur. I have several different business opportunities that I am pursuing all at the same time. A few business plans have failed in the past. This had put my financially behind, but I paid my dues, picked up the pieces, and moved on.

Here’s my thought. If just one of my business ideas takes off, through some hard work, I could become very wealthy. I would have to hire others, and pay them well. I would supply them with benefits and health plans and retirement plans. They could afford a better lifestyle, which means we all would be paying more taxes. Win/win situation. It’s the American Dream.

However, if none of my ideas ever take off, and I end up flopping from bankruptcy to bankruptcy through my middle age, I won’t have enough to retire. “So, Chicago Faucet, don’t retire. Work until you die. Boo Hoo.” one might say.

That’s all fine and dandy, except that the expectation is that I should be able to retire at a certain age. Should I be punished for pursuing a better wealth, which in turn would make others wealthy as well, and generate more tax revenue, except that it didn’t work out that way?

So here’s the spin. We should have a national retirement plan with all the bells and whistles included. After age 65, we should have a monthly check sent to us from the govnerment, and full medical benefits. That way, people like myself, who are repeatedly trying to create the next Big Company aren’t held back by the fear of not having enough to retire. If we are guaranteed a nice retirement, this plan would encourage people to take a few more risks in their younger years, with the expectation that a certain percentage will actually pay of a hundred fold, making life better for everyone.

Slave Reparations. Touchy subject. We gave similar reparations to Native Americans, but not to the Chinese or Hispanics.

Here’s the spin. We do the old, “40 Acres And A Mule,” proposition that was floated after the Civil War. We give each African American who can trace their lineage directly to a slave that was emancipated, today’s financial equivalent of 40 acres and a mule. This money comes from equal amounts the companies that profitted from slavery and our government.

Suddenly you have America’s second largest minority walking around with pockets full of cash.

You want to talk about financial and economic recovery! Wooo!

Consumerism would hit an all time high. The stock market would boom - making everyone rich - that is, after the initial crash when the legislation was passed. House sales would skyrocket. Car sales would skyrocket. Expendable and durable goods would skyrocket. Companies would be hiring all over the place. Everyone would have a job. Talk about a retail dream!

Any comments?

I oppose reparations, but I particularly oppose the sort of shady schemes that you and the likes of Charles Krauthammer are proposing regarding reparations: let’s give some pittance to some ill-defined group of people knowing that (1) very many of them will never be able to produce the documentation to claim the pittance and that (2) an enormous number of those people have been so ill-prepared by our educational system that they will blow through the pittance in a matter of months. Then, when their children are still facing the obstacles that face their parents, we get to simply dismiss them with"You had your chance and blew it."

I am astounded by the level of cynicism required to propose such a thing (although I am never astounded by the cynicism and dishonesty that Krauthammer publishes each week).

You sure blew disclaimer one to hell and back. :confused:

You’re not a Libertarian. However, I consider myself a Libertarian so I’ll give you my take:

  1. Reparations - No.
  2. Social Security - No.

points to Carcosa

What he said.

(Except the part about being a Libertarian.)

In my opinion, any reparations should be used to better the lives of African Americans as a group, not necessarily as individuals.

Better funding for schools in poor, predominantly black neighborhoods, free day-care centers, job training programs, scholarships, tutors, and other such things would be much more beneficial in the long run than issuing individuals checks.

The money has to come from somewhere. You can’t get rich by paying yourself some of your own money.

Reparations makes no sense at all simply because the people who committed the crimes of slavery aren’t around anymore. To get the money to give to slave descendants, you have to take it from third parties. You could argue that descendants of slave owners and white people in general in some way continued to benefit from the legacy of slavery. But that’s not at all clear either. You can make a better argument that it hurt everyone, and while African Americans were disproportionately hurt, it doesn’t make much sense to recompense severe victims with things taken from lesser victims.

Social security actually started out as something that really did call into question the faith that government intervention is always. It radically and permanently altered what had been a real social problem: the crippling poverty among elderly people. But the program expanded much too far, and lasted instead of being phased out as it should have been, having made the changes it needed to. While it’s not quite as horrible an evil, from a free market perspective, as some make it, it also has few of the benefits its proponents claim it has, and as it currently stands, it seems based on the rather ridiculous idea that young people should subsidize the old. Ridiculous because all old people were once young people (and especially unfair because all young people will get to be old people).

Apos: Social security actually started out as something that really did call into question the faith that government intervention is always. [:huh: Always what? Always bad?] It radically and permanently altered what had been a real social problem: the crippling poverty among elderly people. But the program expanded much too far, and lasted instead of being phased out as it should have been, having made the changes it needed to.

How do you figure that the reduction in elderly poverty that SS caused is “permanent” and irreversible? What reason do we have to think that if SS were “phased out”, we wouldn’t have just as many elderly just as poor after a generation or two?


By the way, I actually am a Libertarian. I was just playing Devil’s Advocate with a couple hot topics. I tried to spin them a different way to see what the reaction would be. It pleases me to see so many people outspoken against these two subjects.

This is what I was trying to do:

Argh! I hit send too quickly. :smack:

As far as any accusations of trolling that may be interpreted from this thread - hogwash.

What good would it do to a debate a subject if one cannot bring up all of the possible outcomes from a scenario? And then debate those outcomes?

I understand that it is a blanket rule for the SDMB, however, it should not apply to Great Debates, since it only limits the debaters.

Because the problem wasn’t essentially economic, it was social. Saving for retirement wasn’t part of people’s ideas about how things could and should work. Now it is.

I’m reminded of an African-American student who insisted that “reparations are owed, so where is the argument?”

I told him that the idea of “owing” is up for debate. I didn’t pursue it any further, and he wasn’t able to finish the class anyway, but a whole bunch of problems spring to mind when I think of reparations:

  1. Those who owe are no longer here (as has been pointed out already in this thread).

  2. Those who could have collected for their immediate suffering in the 19th-20th century are no longer here either.

  3. How many drops of African-American blood do you have to have in your veins in order to qualify for reparations?

  4. Who determines the correct amount of money to give? How much is enough?

  5. Who is going to subsidize this plan?

And so forth.


You wouldn’t know it from some of my friends.

I know quite a few people who have saved absolutely nothing for retirement. A lot of these people are working in jobs which don’t offer retirement benefits. Perhaps as they get older, they’ll see the light, and start trying to save a nest-egg, but by then, it’ll most likely be too late. (Yes, I agree, they’re foolish.) A good many people are sucked into our spend-spend-spend society, and aren’t making wise choices.

Some of my friends who are saving are accumulating little, despite their best efforts. They simply have too many expenses (kids in college, mortgage payments, medical bills, etc.) to be able to put away very much each month. Again, some of them will get no retirement benefits from their employers, or what benefits they will get will not be able to support them.

I fear that a lot of the people I know are going to end up dependant on their SS benefits, having little or no other source of income.

The people who commited the crime of slavery are all dead. The people who were the victims are all dead. So who would pay- and to who? Should I pay? My ancestors never owned slaves. Should the black guy in the cubicle next to me get reparations? His family moved here 40 years ago.

And then- why just black slaves? After all, many white peole were moved here in chattle bondage for a decade or more- that’s “slavery” too. Why not them? Or other forms of slavery?

I agree- we should fine any living slaveholders and pay out “40 acres and a mule” to any still living slaves.:dubious:

This may be a nitpick, but I can’t resist. I am not aware of any whites who came here under “chattle bondage.” The whites who came here in bondage were indentured servants, not chattel. The difference is that the law recognized chattel as the legal property of their masters in much the same way that a wagon or a cow could be property. Indentured servitude was recognized as a limited contract between master and servant.

At its best, indentured servitude could be a pretty good deal in which a freeman worked a number of years in return for his passage to the colonies and received some tools and clothes and perhaps even some money and land at the end of his indenture, as well as the opportunity to start a new life in the colonies.

But at its worst, indentured servitude could be as bad as outright slavery. Physical abuse was common; one couple who beat a female servant to death were only fined a few barrels of tobacco. Death rates from hunger, exhaustion, disease and abuse were high (50% on the mainland, as high as 90% on the Caribbean islands). Many servants did not come voluntarily, many being petty criminals and beggars who were basically being dumped on the colonies, others simply being abducted and given forged writs of indenture. Servants could be and were bought and sold much like slaves, and they had little personal liberty. Masters could forbid their servants to marry, and women servants who got pregnant could be severely punished even if the pregnancy was the result of being raped by their masters. The newspapers of the time were full of ads posted by masters looking for runaway servants. It is interesting to note that white servants and black slaves in colonial times often got drunk together, ran away together, and interbred.

It could and did happen that a man might be abducted out of a London tavern and issued a forged writ of indenture, shipped across the Atlantic in chains, chained to a coffle of other servants on his arrival and marched about the countryside to be sold, worked hard from sun up to sun down, given only the minimum of food, clothing and shelter needed to get more work out of him, beaten with a cane or a whip, hunted like an animal when he ran away, and then die of disease or abuse years before his term of servitude expired.

But you won’t hear anybody squawking about reparations for his descendents.

Hmmm, should I get reperations because my Germanic ancestors were driven around by the Huns and enslaved by the Romans? Can I sue myself because my Danish ancestors were trampled upon by my German ancestors? Can Israel claim a chunk of the pyramids as reperations for their slavery? Where does it begin and where does it end?

I agree wholeheartedly.

But, say that both issues do get to the point where Slave Reparations are about to happen, and Social Security becomes everyone’s retirement plan.

Do you feel that my examples above are possible results?

Not for the reparations argument (i.e., that there would be “new” money flowing through the economy, thus boosting the economy for everyone). It comes down to who pays. Reparations just move money around, they do not create wealth (as, say, investments do.)

What if we ask descendants of slaveholders to pay descendants of slaves? I had a college friend that could trace part of her ancestry to the Coos tribe of the Pacific NW, another line to Southern aristocrats, and another part of her heritage to former slaves. Would reparations require her to pay herself? Even leaving out such situations, you have the objection tomndebb raised about proving that you were “worthy”. And what about the reparations advocate who drives around my town with a “40 acres and a mule” bumper sticker on his Lexus SUV – how should he be enriched at the cost of some-one in a Memphis trailer park? More importantly, how does this create wealth or increase the total $ available for economic use?

Ok, you may say, then take it from the surviving or suceeding companies that benefitted from the slave economy. The Hartford Courant printed slave sale notices, the Hartford Insurance company wrote a small number of property insurance policies for slaves, and Union Pacific moved slaves on trains – take the money from them. All you have achieved is that every customer (black, white, or polka-dot) pays extra money for newspapers, life insurance, and consumer goods as those companies pass on the reparations tax/fine. Again, no extra money in circulation.

Ok, last option, the federal government pays for the reparations. Well, this then comes out of the general fund, right? Which is funded by taxes, right? So you are going to be taxing all of us to pay for a benefit for some of us. You are not adding anything to the economy. The most amazing part of this is that part of the reparations a slave descendant would receive would be paid for by their own taxes.

And, in part, I blame this on SS going too far: it has created an idea of an omnipresent safety net that has divorced people from worrying as much about their retirement.

That, or you just happen to know some unusually short-sighted people.

DrDeth, are you sure you meant to quote me?