EDITORrnThomas FlemingrnEXKCUTIVE EDITORrnScott P. RichertrnSENIOR EDITOR, BOOKSrnChilton Williamson, ]r.rnASSISTANT EDITORrnAaron D. WolfrnART DIRECTORrnH. Ward SterettrnDESIGNERrnMelanie AndersonrnCONTRIBUTING EDITORSrnKatherine Dalton, Samuel Francis,rnGeorge Garrett, Paul Gottfried,rnPhilib Jenkins, ].0. Tate, MichaelrnWashburn, Clyde WilsonrnCORRESPONDING EDITORSrnJanet Scott Barlow, Bill Kauffman,rnDonald Livingston, William Mills,rnWilliam Murchison, AndreirnNavrozov, Jacob NeusnerrnFILM EDITORrnGeorge McCartneyrnFOREIGN-AFFAIRS EDITORrnSrdja TrifkovicrnLEGAL-AFFAIRS EDITORrnStephen B. PresserrnRELIGION F.DI TORrnHarold O.J. BrownrnEDITORIAL SECRETARYrnLeann DobbsrnCIRCULATION MANAGERrnCindy LinkrnPUBLISHERrnThe Rockford InstituternA publication of Tlie Rockford Institute.rnEditorial and Advertising Offices:rn928 North Main Street, Rockford, IL 6110?.rnWebsite: WA%V.chronicIcsniagazine.orgrnEditorial Phone: (815) 964-5054.rnAdvertising Phone: (815) 964-58B.rnSubscription Departincnt: P.O. Box 800,rnMount Moms, IL 61054. Gall 1-800-877-5459.rnU.S.A. New,s,stand Distribution by Eastern NewsrnDistiibntors, Inc., One Media Way, 12406 Rt. 250,rnMilan, Ohio 44848-9705.rnCoiiyright © 2000 by Tlie Rockford Institute.rnAll rights reserved.rnChronicles: A Magazine of American CAiItnrern(ISSN ()887-57?l) is published monthly for $’59.00rn(foreign subscriptions add $12 for surface delivery,rn$48 for ,Air Mail) per year bv Tlie Rockford Instihite,rn928 North Main Street, Rockford, IE 61105-7061.rnPreferred periodical postage paid at Rockford, ILrnand additional mailing offices. POSTM/STER:rnSend address changes to Chronicles, P.O. Box 800,rnMount Moms,IL 61054.rnT1ie views expressed in Chronicles are thernauthors’ alone and do not necessarily reflectrnthe views of The Rockford Institute or of itsrndirectors. Unsolicited manuscripts cannot bernrehimed unless accompanied by a self-addre.ssedrnstamped envelope.rnChroniclesrnVol. 2^, No, I )aiuiar’ 2001rnPniilc-cl ill tlie United Sutcs of AinfricarnPOLEMICS & EXCHANGESrnOn ReparationsrnPhilip Jenkins is certainly right about thernrising trajectory of demands for reparationsrnfor slavery (“For What We HavernDone, and What We Have Failed tornDo,” Vital Signs, November 2000). Irnhope, but am doubtful, that he is alsornright about the potential of this gambitrnfor exposing the root absurdity of liberalrnsocial policy. But there is more to be saidrnabout the subject, especially in regard tornthe idea of social debts created by history.rnWhen I think of reparations, I alwaysrnremember a conversation I had somernyears ago with a rather aggressive Germanicrneconomist—let’s call him ProfessorrnZ. This scholar declared that he didrnnot owe any reparations for slavery becausernhis family came from Europe afterrnslavery was abolished.rnWell, it occurred to me there wasrnmore to be said about his debt to Americanrnsociety. My forebears came from Europernin the early 18th century. Theyrnplayed a part, albeit a modest one, in thernfounding of one of the original 13 statesrnand in fighting the Revoluhonary War.rnSome of their kin helped settle the frontier.rnNone of them owned any Africans,rnbut like everybody else, they would havernif they had not been too poor. They haverntaken part in every U.S. war; an uncle ofrnmine was killed in the Battle of thernBulge, leaving a widow and orphan, andrna great uncle was gassed in World War I.rnIf we are balancing the accounts of history,rndoesn’t Professor Z owe a debt tornthose of us Americans whose ancestorsrnmade a perilous sea journey to create arnfree and prosperous country to receivernthe millions who came later? Whyrnshould he freely enjoy all the benefits ofrnAmerican history, but not bear any of thernburdens, such as reparations for slavery?rnBy his refusal of responsibility for slavery.rnProfessor Z is the churlishly ungratefulrnbeneficiary not only of my ancestors butrnof the labor of many generations ofrnAfrican-Americans who long precededrnhinr on this continent.rnOf course, the question of the involuntaryrnbondage of Africans in British NorthrnAmerica over the course of about twoand-rna-half centuries is not likely to receivernmuch light in the debate whichrnProfessor Jenkins anticipates, especiallyrnconsidering the politically corrected conditionrnof the historical profession today.rnBut let’s look into forbidden territory.rnBegin with a paradox: If there hadrnbeen no slavery, then there would nowrnbe no African-Americans to make claims.rnCould the institution in that sense be regardedrnas a benefit? To what extent didrnthe servitude of Africans in the UnitedrnStates exceed in severity’ the servitude ofrncoundess millions of mankind in everyrnland and age, including the serf ancestorsrnof many of us? Most certainly, withoutrnthe forced journey of their ancestors tornAmerica, many present-day African-rnAmericans would not exist, because theirrnancestors would have perished. And howrndo we weigh the debts for the relative advantagernof the Africans who came to thernEnglish colonies and proliferated withrnthose sent to Latin America, who werernused up before they could leave offspring?rnAll sensible economic historians arernaware that, although servitude is not anrnenviable condition, the slaves of antebellumrnAmerica received some return onrntheir labor. In fact, if honesty and reasonrnplayed any part in our national dialogue, itrnwould be easy to demonstrate from datarnand from European travelers that thernslaves in general fared better in food, housing,rnhealth, and working hours than thernurban poor of the Northern United Statesrnand Europe. In calculating reparations,rnhow do we account for the portion of theirrnlabor that they were able to enjoy, or forrntheir relative advantage over the miserablernnnenslaved poor of past centuries? Andrncan we not subtract the billions spent onrnthe war against poverty since the 1960’srnagainst what is owed for past sins? (Ofrncourse, most of that went to upper-middleclassrnliberals to administer welfare, whichrnwas its purpose all along.) I know thernConstitution is as dead as reason and honest}’rnin public life, but reparations to thernliving descendants of slaves would qualifyrnas the creation of an order of nobility—rnthat is, special benefits conferred byrnblood—which is strictly forbidden.rnWliat the American government certainlyrndoes owe African-Americans for isrnthe chaos, suffering, and reactive oppressionrncreated by their unplanned and violentrnemancipation in the wrong way (therngreatest seizure of property, by far, inrnAmerican history) and for the wrong rea-rn4/CHRONICLESrnrnrn