This debate will not go away. There is a reason for this. First, there is a lot of money on the line. Second, the welfare state ideology is widespread.
The case for reparations is the case for the welfare state.
The case for reparations to blacks in general from society in general rests on a concept of collective victimization and collective guilt. It says that Americans in general are guilty. In this case, the reparations argument claims that all Americans are collectively responsible today for what specific slave owners in the American South did to specific blacks prior to the summer of 1865.
I reject the argument. That is because I reject the idea of the welfare state.
The welfare state is messianic. Its defenders claim it can heal. They believe it can bring salvation — a word linked to the root word for “salve” — a healing ointment.
The state cannot heal. That is because it cannot bring positive sanctions without imposing negative sanctions. The case for reparations is a case for net positive state sanctions, based on social justice. This case is deeply flawed — morally and judicially.
FROM THE VETO TO COERCION
First and foremost, the state is not a legitimate agency of positive sanctions. This is the most fundamental principle of civil government that is being widely violated today. The welfare state rests upon the philosophical and religious premise that God has created the state, or voters have created the state, as a means of extracting wealth from certain groups and transferring this wealth to other groups.
The state can never create wealth. This is the fundamental point. The state extracts wealth through taxation, and is therefore an agency of wealth consumption. It takes money to run the state. There is no profit-and-loss system to enable us to turn the state into a profit-making institution. The state demands monopoly of coercion. There is no open entry, unlike the free market. The state is not governed by a system of consumer authority.
The economic defense of democracy is that those who are being victimized by special-interest voters have a right to organize and veto programs of corporate wealth extraction. The voters are also in a position to veto anything else the state is going to do to them.
The problem comes when certain special-interest groups figure out that they can use their ability to mobilize other voters to extract wealth from victims who do not have enough votes. Here is the principle of welfare state transfers: “Thou shalt not steal, except by majority vote.” Of course, it is not really majority vote. It is the ability to game the system, usually in a way invisible to most voters.
Whenever some people learn to vote for a living, the result is the welfare state. Whenever people learn that they can use the state, not merely as a way to veto state coercion against them, but to impose state coercion on others, and thereby benefit from this coercion, we see the birth of the welfare state.
Whenever the state is empowered to extract wealth from one group and transfer it to another group, based on the voting capacity of the two groups, we have created a means of massive theft.
The judicial goal of the state should be to transfer wealth from perpetrators of crimes to their victims. The state is an agency of wealth transfer, but not wealth transfer in general. It is specific wealth transfer: from perpetrators of crimes who have been convicted by a jury, to their victims. This is the biblical system of justice. This is also what Bastiat proclaimed. This is what the early libertarian movement, founded by Leonard E. Reed, also proclaimed in the early years. This is the doctrine of limited government. It should be called the doctrine of limited civil government. Civil government is limited, so that individual self-government, family government, and church government can flourish. It is never a question of government versus no government. It is always a question of which government.
In order to reduce the level of violence in a society, and to create greater predictability with respect to violence, the West has set up a jury system. When someone believes he is the victim of fraud or coercion, he challenges that person in a court of law. A jury of their peers is then to try the case. The jury decides innocence and guilt. The jury decides what should be done in terms of restitution in specific cases.
COLLECTIVE GUILT, COLLECTIVE VICTIMHOOD
The problem comes whenever voters accept a system of civil government that says that specific criminals owe something to society in general. This is redefined to mean that the criminals must suffer penalties imposed by the state, and the state will extract wealth from voters in general in order to be able to impose the penalties.
(For the rest of my article, click the link.)