This is how serious the intellectual case for slavery reparations is.

I’m going to ignore the other problems with the idea of slavery reparations for the moment and focus on just one:

It is simply too late for the United States to make reparations for slavery.

To be reparations, anything the State does would have to:

  • benefit the victims
  • have costs that are borne by the perpetrators

And it’s just too late for that.

The victims and the perpetrators are all dead.

They have all been dead for at least 50 years; most have been dead for well over 100 years.

And while it is certainly true that the era of slavery in the United States had long-standing effects that are still visible statistically today, it is no longer a legitimate cause of State action. It is history.

And it’s too late to do anything about it.

No victims are alive to compensate; no perpetrators are alive to punish.

And once that line is crossed, once it passes from a living issue and into history, reparations are impossible.

The United States cannot make this good; it’s going to have to live with slavery as an indelible part of its past.

That’s not to say that the people alive today who need help cannot or should not receive that help; of course they should.

It’s just that that help cannot be reparations.

Leave a Reply