"The practice of slavery dates to prehistoric times, although its institutionalization probably first occurred in early historical times"
"Slavery," Microsoft(R) Encarta(R) 98 Encyclopedia. (c) 1993-1997 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
Should the rich nations of the West pay reparations to Africa and it's Diaspora?
Grab your wallet! Yet another group is on the prowl in pursuit of unearned cash. Calling themselves "The African World Reparations and Repatriation Truth Commission" they blame the west for Africa's social and economic problems and feel the Americas and Western Europe should fork over some $777 TRILLION plus interest in reparations. The beneficiaries of this claim are to be the people of Africa and the Diaspora.
According to the declaration of the commission (the Accra Declaration) the money would be demanded from ''all those nations of Western Europe and the Americas and institutions, who participated and benefited from the slave trade and colonialism.'' Curiously, the other nations who participated and benefited from the slave trade, those of North Africa and the Middle East are not mentioned.
"Over the centuries, somewhere in the neighbourhood of 11 million people were shipped across the Atlantic from Africa as slaves, and another 14 million African slaves were taken across the Sahara Desert or shipped through the Persion Gulf and other waterways to the nations of North Africa and the Middle East."
Race and Culture: A World View by Thomas Sowell.
Evidently, it is not the slave trade that the commission objects to since slavery as an institution existed in Africa and throughout the world long before the Portuguese got in on the game in 1444. The commisson seems to have made the observation that the West is rich enough to satisfy the claim and decided to conclude that the West is rich because of the slave trade.
The combined annual Gross Domestic Products of the 9 richest American and European economies amounts to a mere $15 Trillion, hence, even if those nine countries were to surender their entire Gross Domestic Product every year to Africa and the Diaspora it would take about 52 years to satisfy The African World Reparations and Repatriation Truth Commission's claim.
Is the claim just? Well, yes and no, depending on your fundamental political philosophy. To individualists, the claim is ludicrous, to collectivists on the other hand, the claim is perfectly valid. The reason for the difference is quite simple... individualists insist that individuals are responsible for their own actions whereas collectivists subscribe to the more convenient belief that someone else is always responsible for those actions. That is why criminalists, close relatives of collectivists, are often heard to say "I am a product of society, that is why I robbed, raped and murdered. Society is responsible for my actions. It wasn't my fault."
Collectivists apply the same thinking to the economic realm... where the criminal insists someone else is responsible for what he did, the collectivist insists someone else is responsible for what he didn't do. For example, the skillful, ambitious, energetic, intelligent, hard working person must bear responsibility for the material sustenance of those who are not skillful, ambitious, energetic, intelligent and hard working.
The West's peculiar instition: the welfare state , rests on this premise. I.E. the modern version of slavery, where the government owns the people but let's them keep a portion of the value they produce so they will keep on producing. The other portion of the fruits of that labour, that part owned by the government (tax evasion is stealing it's advocates claim), is extracted via taxation and doled out to various groups in accordance with the degree of political clout those groups manage to muster. Some of the recipients of this dole do not produce but, through welfare elligability, (a legal claim to the fruits of other's labour) benefit from the coercive transfer of goods and services from those who produced them.
In the same way, those clamouring for reparations for slavery insist they are entitled to the entire life's labours of every man, woman and child in the West mainly because Africa never did produce the factories, transportation infrastructure, markets and technologies the skillful, ambitious, energetic, intelligent, hard working people of the West produced. Far from having any fundamental aversion to slavery some advocates of African Reparations explicitly endorse modern taxation slavery as a means of obtaining their booty. (see below)
According to Pan African Congress (PAC) deputy president Motsoko Pheko in an article from from MISAnet/PANA
The labour of Africans was used in the Americas, Europe and West Indies to build the foundations for today's wealth of the so-called developed countries.
Does Mr. Pheko honestly believe we in the West would still be living in log cabins if not for the labour of Africans? Does Mr. Pheko really think that there would be no pharmaceutical indstry in the West if not for the labour of Africans? No electronics? No automobiles? No jets? No central heating and air conditioning? No flush toilets, washing machines and refrigerators? Are we seriously expected to believe that the vast new computer industry and the internet would not have existed in the West if not for the labour of Africans? Were the great bridges, dams and skyscrapers of the West built on African labour?
Anyone possessing the merest scintilla of economic sense would reject this whole idea out of hand. The great wealth of the West is due to capitalism, not physical labour. Unfortunately, the proportion of the populations of the Western democracies in possession of said scintilla is dangerously small, hence the possibility that the proposed victims of this reparations idea remain susceptible to myriads of specious claims.
It is difficult to believe that Mr. Pheko is serious in making this claim... indeed, the claim is so preposterous that only one conclusion can be drawn.... the true basis for the African reparations claim is precisely that African labour had nothing whatsover to do with the massive wealth of the modern West, and that therefore, in accordance with standard collectivist/criminalist thinking, Africa is morally entitled to own it - or at least fifty odd years of the entire economic output of the nine richest Western nations.
A more reasonable approach to the question of reparations might be to identify the heirs of those specific institutions and individuals who profited from the slave trade and colonialism. Having done so it would be necessary also to determine exactly which proportion of the current wealth of these institutions and individuals was due to the exploitation of the descendants of modern African and the Diaspora.
A fair minded individual could hardly object to a request that these legitimate assets be returned to the heirs of the original owners. Yet according to the essay The legal basis of the claim for Reparations By Lord Anthony Gifford, British Queens Counsel and Jamaican Attorney-at-Law at the Africa Reparations Movement (ARM) website,
It would be possible to identify individual companies which could be proved to have made vast profits from slavery. There are plantation owners in Jamaica, and titled families in England, whose living heirs owe their wealth to slaving.
... but this approach would involve too much work and the defendants would reject it. Lord Gifford believes that instead, all citizens should assume collective guilt because governments have "reserves" and "taxation powers" and that it is "governments who must in the end be persuaded that reparations are to be paid" by everyone regardless of the culpability of their specific ancestors. Imposing the burden on innocent third parties, many of whose ancestors were hardly better off and often worse off than many slaves does not seem to deter Lord Gifford in his pursuit of what he calls "justice".[back]
The key point here is Mr. Gifford's specific rejection of going after those who today can be identified as direct beneficiaries of the slave trade in favour of the more lucrative prospect of going after those whose ancestors were not.
More stuff: Annual Gross Domestic Product of Selected Nations
|Country||Annual Gross Domestic Product (1996) in Trillions|
|Source:||The New World Almanac and Book of Facts 1999|
 The population of Western Europe, North and South America is currently about 1.3 billion people. $777 TRILLION US represents a mere payout of $597,692 for every man, woman and child living in the "guilty" countries. This is about $70,636,364 for each of the roughly 11 million Africans who were shipped accross the Atlantic.[back]
Conquests and Cultures: An International History
by Thomas Sowell.
An important book for anyone interested in developing a perspective on the validity of African reparations claims.
Race and Culture: A World View by Thomas Sowell.
Race and Slavery in the Middle East : An Historical Enquiry by Bernard Lewis.
© 1999 Hans Wienhold
Tuesday, November 30, 1999 at 21:18:37