Praise for the Social Justice Rav on Slave Reparations

I’m going through Shmuly’s various articles looking for something I agree with entirely. I do feel a little malaise for yelling at him when he’s in the middle of healing after surgery. I have found a position of Shmuly’s on social justice that fully conforms to a libertarian position. Thank God. Maybe there’s more. I’ll keep looking.

Shmuly supports slave reparations to descendants of black slaves, but not through taxes. Way to go! OK, so he didn’t say he was against tax-funded reparations. He just said that tax-funded reparations would be practically impossible, and then offered a reasonable and just solution. Close enough. (Emphasis mine. Not yelling, just highlighting the good parts.)

Yet, for too long taxpayers have resisted paying new taxes for anything, let alone reparations for an institution that was abolished by 1865, long before many millions trace their ancestors’ arrival in America. Oddly, the only compensation based on slavery ever given was by the federal government as a reward to loyal Washington, DC slave-owners who gave up their slaves during the Civil War.

Mary Frances Berry, a professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania and former chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, is among those who endorse a “Reparations Superfund” derived from industries that benefited from slave labor, like those of cotton and tobacco, as well as corporations such as banks and insurance companies that practiced racial discrimination in the years after slavery, could be created. This fund would be paid to those who could provide proof that their ancestors had been slaves. Professor Berry maintains that this fund should be dispensed regardless of any other consideration: “Reparations for unpaid labor are restitution, payment for damages to make whole for harm done. No restrictions should be made on how the money is spent. If their ancestors had received wages for their labor they too would have bought what they wanted, invested it as they desired, or given it to churches or schools or charities.”

Good job! How will this be enforced? Well, here’s my idea.

It would have to ultimately be through government force, because government has a monopoly on force in the US. But just like I drive on the public roads because I have no choice, I would support a government law mandating that two sides meet together with a mutually agreed upon judge because there is no other way. These two sides would be a committee made up of representatives of descendants of slaves on one side, and representatives of the companies they are claiming reparations from on the other. The mutually agreed upon judge decides the arguments and who gets what. No politicians involved.

Then, when a deal is worked out, the politicians can vote yes on it and that’s all they do. Then the money transfers start.

That is an idea I can fully support. Praise to Shmuly Yanklowitz. And a refuah shleimah to him.