Not all the errors stem from anti-Americanism;rnsome are the result of ignorancernand sloppiness. Thus, the notes state thatrn”Jefferson’s first task as President was tornrepeal the Alien and Sedition Acts.” Actually,rnthe Acts were not repealed; theyrnsimply expired.rnLikewise, “In 1829, Andrew Jackson . . .rnwas decisively elected.” The election wasrnin 1828. During the Buchanan administration,rn”Mormons were threatening warrnin Utah” —a statement equivalent torn”Belgians in 1914 were threatening warrnwith Germany.” Brand writes that LvndonrnJohnson was “Majoritv Leader of thernHouse of Representatives”; actually, hernwas Senate majority leader.rnFortunately, the value of the albumrnlies not in the liner notes. (If vou want tornlearn more about American politicalrnsongs than the liner notes convey, have arnused book service find you a copy of IrwinrnSilber’s fascinating book Songs AmericarnVoted By, Stackpole, 1971.) Whilernthe songs reflect certain negative traits ofrnthe American political character, theyrncan also inspire us to return to our highestrnprinciples—especiallv as expressed inrnthe campaign tunes of our first six presidents.rnAs the war song of the Fatiier ofrnour Country urges, “Follow, followrnWashington . . . determined to be free myrnlads, determined to be free. Till fi”eedomrnreigns, our happy bands, we’ll fight likerntrue Americans. With heart in hand andrnGod our trust, we’ll freely fight; our causernis just.”rnDavid B. Kopel is an adjunct professor ofrnlaw at the New York LIniversity School ofrnLaw and research director with thernIndependence Institute.rnSOCIETYrnFor What We HavernDone, and What WernHave Failed to Dornby Philip ]enkinsrnBefore too long, Americans are goingrnto be engaged in a heated debaternover proposals to pay reparations for slavery.rnThe idea has been floating aroundrnon the left for perhaps 30 years; but in thernlate 1990’s, it gradually moved from tiiernrealm of the inconceivable to that of thernnearly inevitable, the kind of trajectoryrnfollowed by once-unthinkable notionsrnlike gay marriage or gim confiscation.rnEver)’ year for the last decade. Rep. JohnrnConyers has sought to introduce a bill “tornexamine the institution of slavery,” subsequentrn”de jure and de facto discriminationrnagainst freed slaves and their descendants,”rnand their impact “on livingrnAfrican-Americans.” Congress would berncalled to consider “appropriate remedies.”rnAlthough the measure has neverrnreached the floor of the House of Representatives,rna changing mood was indicatedrnby the positive response to RandallrnRobinson’s tract The Debt: What AmericarnOwes to Blacks (Dutton, 2000) and itsrncall for “national restitution.” In the privaternsector as well, enterprising lawyersrnare now launching lawsuits against somernof America’s largest corporations, particularlyrnin the Northeast, on the groundsrnthat their wealth was founded on slavery.rnIf German firms such as IG-Farben andrnVolkswagen can compensate slas’c laborersrnfrom the 1940’s, why should U.S.rncompanies such as Aetna not make similarrnpayments to the descendants of blackrnslaves from the 1840’s? The discussion ofrnreparations is coming, and, although thisrnmay startie some readers, I’d like to suggestrnsome reasons why we should supportrnthe passage of such measures.rnLet me say right away fliat the reparationsrnidea would be historically groundlessrnand socially destructive. This is notrnan attempt to vindicate slavery; I’m not arnrevisionist. But granting the horrors ofrnslavery, any reasonable observer wouldrnagree that any debt has already been paid,rnpossibly twice. It was amply paid in thernblood of 600,000 American dead in thernCivil War, to say nothing of the millionsrnof lives ruined by that conflict. Arguably,rnthe debt was paid again in the 1960’s,rnwhen conflicts over segregation resultedrnin the destruction of states’ rights and localrnautonomy and drove the UnitedrnStates into a hitherto unimaginable degreernof authoritarian centralism.rnEqually ob ions are the flagrant injusticesrninvolved in a reparations policy,rnwhich is precisely why I woifld like to seerna bill proposed by Congress as soon asrnpossible. The ideas underlying reparationsrnare those that have motivated muchrnof contemporary liberal thought, butrncommentators have rareh’ hied to pursuernthem to their logical conclusions, out of arndecent respect to the opinions ofrnmankind. A reparations debate wouldrnforce us to explore the implications ofrnthese ideas, and the consequences wouldrnbe explosive. Some advocates would recoilrnat these implications, others mightrnnot, but in either case, the debate wouldrnhave enormous educational power.rnThe reparations theory is based on severalrncore ideas of modern liberalism thatrnhave flourished during the Clinton years.rnOne is the notion that political societv’ isrna matter of group adherence rather thanrnindividual rights. What vou are, and thernrights to which you are entitled, dependrnon group membership, and in most cases,rnmembership is determined by descentrnand biolog}’. Such an approach has nothingrnto do with the Constitution, but it isrnthe basis of social policies such as affirmativernaction. A reparations debaternwould force advocates of social-grouprntheories to come clean about their assumptions.rnJust who would receive reparations?rnThere are no surviving ex-slaves, and preciousrnfew children of slaves, while Robinsonrnand Conyers make it clear that theyrnare not terribly interested in legal distinctionsrnbeh een those who were slaves orrnfreedmen in antebellum America. Reparationsrnwould be directed towardrn”African-Americans”; for the first time inrnAmerican historj’, a racial category wouldrnbe explicitly entitled to financial paymentsrnnot available to other groups. Thisrnis explicitly racial legislation, with paymentrnto blacks coming from “whites”:rnthe descendants of Polish miners, Irish laborers,rnJewish artisans, and Boston Brahmins,rnwho are imagined to be a single homogeneousrnand privileged class ofrnexploiters.rnThe next step would be to determinernwho is an African-American. I wouldrnvery much hope that, on the first day arnreparations policy is implemented, a couplernof hundred million non-black Americansrnwould present themselves at federalrnoffices declaring their sincere belief thatrnthey are of slave ancestry and, therefore,rnentitled to a share of the loot. Meanwhile,rnlawyers would challenge the qualificationsrnfor payments to people commonl)-rnregarded as “black,” on the basisrnthat their light skins indicate racial admixture.rnI can’t wait, by the way, to seernthe exact phrasing of a reparations bill,rnand its effort to make payments to blacksrnwithout explicit reference to skin color.rnPresumably, legislators will use somernterm such as “past or ancestral conditionrnof involuntary servitude,” thereby open-rn44/CHRONICLESrnrnrn