Libertarianism is rational for rich white people only.

Libertarianism is a political philosophy that is fiscally conservative, but socially liberal—except when it concerns social issues that involve money or property. Stereotypically, libertarianism is self-consistent only in a toy universe abstracted away from the messiness and social inequalities of the real world.

Several years ago, a libertarian introduced to me a flash video that was intended to promote libertarianism. I was amazed to find that the unrealistic abstraction and idealism that is stereotypical of libertarianism was manifested even in the video’s visuals. An unintentional visual self-parody, the video—The Philosophy of Liberty—illustrates libertarianism with abstract stick figures representing people devoid of race, gender, and historical context.

One of the recurrent problems in this video is the confusion between the ideal and the actual. Specifically, the video confuses normative statements with descriptive statements. A normative statement is a statement about how things should be, while a descriptive statement is a statement about how things are. For example, many people, usually white, may claim “Race doesn’t matter”, when race actually matters in the real world. The truth is that race shouldn’t matter for things like employment and housing, not that it doesn’t. Doctors should be motivated by pure altruism and not money, some may argue, but people’s normative statements have no effect on descriptive facts about reality.

The Philosophy of Liberty video makes normative claims about the nature of property, but presents them as descriptive claims. The intent is to convince the viewer that people have a natural right to their property, and to reduce or eliminate taxation and other types of wealth redistribution by the government. Here is an example of a normative claim about property presented as a descriptive claim through the use of “is” instead of “should be”:

''Property is the fruit of your labor, the product of your Time, Energy, and Talents.''

This is absolutely false as a descriptive statement. In the real world, people acquired property through genocide, invasion, murder, assault, and theft. The United States invaded, colonized, and committed genocide against the indigenous people of North America. It enslaved people from Africa to quickly build up its nation with little overhead. Most of the valuable “property” recognized in American law belongs to white Americans, but it was acquired by violating the rights of Native Americans and African Americans.

At the same time, of course, the use of force is contrary to libertarian ideals:

''The initiation of Force or Fraud to take life is murder, to take liberty is slavery, and to take property is theft''

If The Philosophy of Liberty is self-consistent, then property that was acquired from stealing land from Native Americans and from enslaving African Americans is illegitimate. However, most (white) libertarians are against paying reparations to African Americans and are against returning the land to Native Americans.

Clearly, American libertarians, who are mostly white, use libertarianism to rationalize their class privilege and white privilege. Libertarianism is an inconsistent philosophy in the context of the real world, and the only consistency among most libertarians is that they are against being taxed. For most American libertarians, if the government taxes rich white Americans, it is theft, but if rich white Americans stole African American labor, time, energy, and talent, it happened a long time ago and accounts should be cleared.

Obviously, the people who currently have the most wealth, class privilege, and white privilege want to support a system that minimizes or eliminates wealth redistribution. If these same people were reduced to poverty through force—such as from a Mexican reconquista or Chinese invasion—they too would demand reparations. From the perspective of those who do not benefit from libertarian politics or are less selfish, libertarian propaganda like this video is a thinly-veiled attempt to help rich people stay rich, based on internally inconsistent rationalizations. When people happen to be on top of the wheel of fate, they search for philosophies that confirm the rightfulness of their place, holding on to them desperately at the expense of self-consistency.

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84 Responses to “Libertarianism is rational for rich white people only.”

  1. Rich Says:

    You seem to have missed the fact that groups don’t exist: only individuals exist.

    So the question is, should white people who exist today be forced at gunpoint to pay the consequences of the actions of dead people they never met. The answer is, of course, no.

    Imagine a man, “a” of race “A” whose wife and children has been murdered by a man, “b” of race “B”. Does person “a” have a right to kill an arbitrary member of race “B” in order to establish some sort of “racial justice”? Of course not!

    So it is with historical initiations of force. One does not inherit “racial guilt” for past events, even if the people involved in those events might have had levels of pigmentation in their skin which are similar to yours.

  2. Rich Says:

    It may, however, make you feel better to remember that your position has been taken by some very powerful men.

    For example, Stalin believed that everybody who had more than some certain amount of money and property (never specified) where responsible for crimes committed by anybody who had a similar level of wealth. Therefore, one could punish any member of that group for any crime committed by any other member of that group.

    Hitler, too, agreed with you, although he favored different races. It was common, if it was believed that an armed Jew had killed one of his soldiers, for arbitrary Jews to be rounded up and made to suffer for the crime, just was you want arbitrary whites to be made to suffer for some of the things that individuals now dead have done to other individuals now dead. That Hitlers “criminals” and scapegoats lived in the same time, while you want to punish modern scapegoats for crimes that took place before they were born does not change the essential nature of your prescription.

  3. Rich Says:

    So here is an interesting case:

    I am white. My father, who adopted me, is Armenian. The Armenians are a Semetic people (like Jews and Arabs). They were subjected to an attempted genocide by Turks who controlled the government of the Ottoman Empire. My grandparents immigrated to America, with nothing but the clothes on their backs, after the 1915 Massacre. So the question is, am I:

    1) Owed reparations by modern Turks, because their ancestors massacred my adopted family in the old country?

    2) Responsible for making reparations for slavery because my skin was white, even though my (adopted) family obviously could not possibly have benefited from slavery, since they didn’t even get here until just before WWII.

    ————

    Once you’ve answered that absurd question, how about this?

    Imagine that the black son of an African prince whose tribe, once upon a time, was one of those who went to war with other tribes to get slaves to sell to the Spanish slave traders, comes here to go to school. At the same time, a white guy tries to go to school. His ancestor was John Brown, who was hanged fighting against slavery.

    The questions are:

    1) Is the African kid “bad” because his ancestors benefited from slavery, or is he “good” because his skin is black?

    2) Is the white kid “bad” because his skin is white, or is he “good” because his ancestors suffered death fighting against slavery?

    So what do you think? Is guilt something you inherit genetically, like brown eyes and dark skin? Or is it something you inherit like an old coin collection? Inquiring minds want to know more about this disastrous system of racial (or inherited) despotism you’re setting up.

  4. Rich Says:

    You might also want to consider people of mixed race. What if a “bad” white man marries a “good” black woman and has a child? Is the child “bad”, because he’s half black, or is he “good” because he’s half black?

    You really need to spell out your desired racial pecking order better.

  5. Rich Says:

    Sorry, the above should say:

    Is the child “bad” because he’s half white, or “good” because he’s half black?

  6. Rich Says:

    OK, last comment.

    Now that I’ve demolished your racial pecking order proposal, I thought I’d move on to where you’re right:

    The regulated market under which we live guarantees an unfair distribution of property, forever, because those with political power can take what I have produced and give it to those who did not create it, if they have more political power than I. That’s one of the many reasons that we who love freedom want to institute (not return to, since it never existed) a free market.

    So then the question is “what do we do about distribution of property?”.

    The answer is, I don’t care. So long as the end result is a free market, I don’t care what the initial distribution of property is. Why? Because a free market will steer resources to those who will make the best use of them, regardless of what the initial distribution is. So if you want to declare all land in America “unowned”, and have a giant game of “musical homesteads” for the initial distribution, I don’t care. In a free market, property will flow to those who produce. And that’s how it should be.

  7. Robyn Says:

    “The Philosophy of Liberty” is the simplest and best illustration of the Truth that I have ever seen. This article, however, is disturbing on many levels.

    “One of the recurrent problems in this video is the confusion between the ideal and the actual.” Hello-ooooo…? Anyone home? Actually, I really do own myself. This is not just an ideal. This is reality. The ideal is getting everyone to realize this simple truth. The whole purpose of this video is to educate people. Why will anyone ever even try to make a positive change unless they can understand that there is something terribly wrong with the current situation? The video doesn’t confuse anything. It simply makes a statement. The basic statement is, “I own myself, and I have a right to my liberty and my own property.” This statement is true.

    One of the problems with this article is that the author scoffs at good ideals as being unrealistic. Apparently, he prefers the reality of involuntary servitude to the truth of self-ownership. Does he not realize that when the “reality” is bad, we can and should make an effort to change it? It may be that he is bitter because he knows that it is true and he can’t see a way for people to live freely. He also seems to be bitter toward “rich, white people”. Hmm…. What exactly is wrong with being white? Anyone…? Anyone…? Oh, right – nothing. Okay, now who can tell me what is wrong with having wealth that you aquired honestly? Anyone…? Oh, of course – nothing.

  8. Robyn Says:

    Okay, let’s try this comment thing with my name on it now. lol

    “…many people, usually white, may claim “Race doesn’t matter”, when race actually matters in the real world. The truth is that race shouldn’t matter for things like employment and housing, not that it doesn’t.” Well, if it shouldn’t matter, then don’t let it matter! The only reason it supposedly “matters” is because people want it to matter. It only matters in your head.

    “The intent is to convince the viewer that people have a natural right to their property….” Is this man implying that he does not have a right to his own property? Does he dare imply that anyone else does not have a right to his or her own property? If he doesn’t have a right to it, then it isn’t his “own” property at all.

    “This is absolutely false as a descriptive statement. In the real world, people acquired property through genocide, invasion, murder, assault, and theft.” Anyone who aquires something wrongfully has stolen it, and whatever they have stolen is not really their own property. The statement he attacks is, “Property is the fruit of your labor – the product of your time, energy and talents.” That statement is absolutely true. It does not claim that your property is the fruit of the labor of others.

  9. Robyn Says:

    Another problem with this article is that the author is trying to project the mistakes of past generations onto the present generation. My mother is a nurse. She does not earn a living from participating in genocide, invasion, murder, assault or theft. My uncle is a plumber. He does not earn a living from participating in genocide, invasion, murder, assault or theft. My friend is a seamstress. She does not earn a living from genocide, invasion, murder, assault or theft. In the real world, the people who participate in genocide and invasion work for the government. They have also been known to participate in murder, assault and theft to aquire property.

    My mother is white and my father was black. Since I am probably descended from African slaves brought to America way-back-when, and you may be descended from the people who enslaved my ancestors, do I have a right to your money? Absolutely not! If I am descended from slave owners, does anyone descended from African slaves have a right to my personal earnings? Absolutely not!

    “For most American libertarians, if the government taxes rich white Americans, it is theft, but if rich white Americans stole African American labor, time, energy, and talent, it happened a long time ago and accounts should be cleared.” If anyone steals the labor, time, energy and talent of anyone else, it is wrong, and the people who do it are responsible and accountable for their own actions. I never owned slaves. I didn’t own slaves a long time ago, and I don’t own slaves now. I don’t need my “account cleared” because what I earn is a product of my own labor.

  10. Restructure! Says:

    Rich,

    This is not about keeping tallies between the white “group” and the black “group”. This is about individuals whose rights were violated and the consequences of this on their ancestors. African Americans who are descendants of people who were enslaved deserve reparations because of their ancestry, not their skin colour. Black African Americans of immigrant ancestry only, for example, do not deserve reparations. Please see this link, which, among other things, points out that the black/white wealth gap has widened due to differences in inherited wealth, (ultimately caused by racial discrimination).

    Many of your comments are straw men, and I’m disappointed that Godwin’s Law came into effect in the second comment of this thread. Poor form, Rich.

  11. Restructure! Says:

    Robyn,

    It doesn’t seem like you understood what the post was about. Read it again, and show that you understand the normative vs. descriptive distinction.

  12. Robyn Says:

    Restructure!, why do you say to me, “It doesn’t seem like you understood what the post was about.”? Maybe you’d like to elaborate on what, exactly, you think I don’t understand. It is true that I own myself and my property. That’s not “how it should be” – that’s how it is. Do you understand that?

  13. Restructure! Says:

    Robyn,

    “One of the recurrent problems in this video is the confusion between the ideal and the actual.” Hello-ooooo…? Anyone home? Actually, I really do own myself. This is not just an ideal. This is reality. The ideal is getting everyone to realize this simple truth. The whole purpose of this video is to educate people. Why will anyone ever even try to make a positive change unless they can understand that there is something terribly wrong with the current situation? The video doesn’t confuse anything. It simply makes a statement. The basic statement is, “I own myself, and I have a right to my liberty and my own property.” This statement is true.

    One of the problems with this article is that the author scoffs at good ideals as being unrealistic. Apparently, he prefers the reality of involuntary servitude to the truth of self-ownership. Does he not realize that when the “reality” is bad, we can and should make an effort to change it?

    Why don’t you keep reading the rest of the paragraph, instead of assuming that my complaint is that The Philosophy of Liberty’s normative statements are unrealistic?

    Even more, you are assuming that I am a man.

    Okay, now who can tell me what is wrong with having wealth that you aquired honestly? Anyone…? Oh, of course – nothing.

    Nothing. But your wealth is not acquired honestly, since it was taken by force or fraud from African Americans and/or Native Americans. See this post.

  14. LaSmartOne Says:

    THANK YOU for writing this blog entry. Now, if only your common sense message could get out to the masses and to the people who actually need to read this.

  15. Robyn Says:

    Mr./Mrs./Ms. Restructure! –

    “Why don’t you keep reading the rest of the paragraph, instead of assuming that my complaint is that The Philosophy of Liberty’s normative statements are unrealistic?”

    Hmm…perhaps I mistook the following sentence….

    “I was amazed to find that the unrealistic abstraction and idealism that is stereotypical of libertarianism was manifested even in the video’s visuals.”

  16. Robyn Says:

    “But your wealth is not acquired honestly, since it was taken by force or fraud from African Americans and/or Native Americans.”

    How dare you imply that my wealth is not acquired honestly!? That statement is completely unfounded and false. You don’t know me, so you don’t know anything about my property or where it comes from. My property most certainly was not taken by force or fraud from ANYONE. The U.S. government aquires wealth by force and fraud all the time, though, so maybe you should bring up the issue with them since it bothers you so much.

  17. HardL Says:

    You see this everywhere: people making arguments about how things should be or could be instead of what they actually are. Continually glossing over what is and think they are actually making factual arguments.
    Theories are great except for those who are actually hungry.

    @ robyn: And of course you own yourself, you are self sufficient..etc, etc, etc, until you feel the need to trot out your family, extended family, and friends to benefit your argument.
    So, it seems, you’ll gloss over history to argue your independence but then use it (family, friends) to bolster that the viewpoint.
    Here’s a simple question: Are you the result of your history?
    (hint: yes) Then what part of you is free? Or is the freedom you folks talking about merely of a superficial and physical kind? meaning, I can wipe my ass without a big brother watching, so therefore I am free…

  18. HardL Says:

    to quickly add: Why do some people want to act like their actions are divorced from history? To the poster above, you just said you were half white and black….that very union is the result of history…that is obvious, why isn’t it obvious to you that the generation of your wealth could not have had anything to do with that…..How your parents met, how they raised you, what schools you went to, the people you grew up with…etc etc etc..You want to act like you just spontaneously appeared and started making money (apparently). This is silly. And I guess that makes your indignance righteous.

  19. Robyn Says:

    HardL –

    “You see this everywhere: people making arguments about how things should be or could be instead of what they actually are. Continually glossing over what is and think they are actually making factual arguments.
    Theories are great except for those who are actually hungry.”

    Oh, no…. Please don’t tell me we have another person who thinks that Freedom is a theory. What are these “theories” that are only great if you’re not hungry? If I’m starving, can I take away your freedom? I’m hoping you meant something else. If “the way things should be” equals “I have the right to step outside my house and walk down the driveway”, and “how things are” equals “Whenever I try to leave my house, someone stabs me with a knife”, do you expect me to put up with the reality of “how things are”, or strive for the ideal of “the way things should be”? If “how things are” is wrong, then you can bet that I’m going to aim for “how things should be”.

    “…of course you own yourself, you are self sufficient..etc, etc, etc, until you feel the need to trot out your family, extended family, and friends to benefit your argument. So, it seems, you’ll gloss over history to argue your independence but then use it (family, friends) to bolster that the viewpoint.”

    What nonsense are you spouting? The only instance in which I even mentioned my extended family and friends was when I pointed out that they do not earn a living from participating in genocide, invasion, murder, assault or theft. Are you suggesting that I don’t own myself because I pointed out that my family and friends make an honest living!?

    I am responsible only for my own choices. I am not responsible for the choices my ancestors made. Some of my ancestors may have been slave-holders, and some of them may have been murderers. The descendants of African slaves don’t have a right to my personal earnings any more than the descendants of murder victims have the right to execute me.

    “Why do some people want to act like their actions are divorced from history?”

    I don’t know about those people, but just in case you mean me, my actions are not and were never “married” to anyone else’s history. My actions are up to me. Everyone else can only influence me, but they cannot control me. No matter what events led to my existance, I am only responsible for my own choices – not for my mother’s, or my fathers, or any of my ancestors, etc. I was born free. I inherited no debts.

    Even if your great-great-great-great grandfather stole a cow from my great-great-great-great grandfather, you do not owe me a cow – unless you personally stole a cow from me. I have not violated anyone’s rights, so I don’t owe anyone anything.

  20. HardL Says:

    It’s a little more subtle than that. I’ll try again simply: Freedom from something- as a reaction- is not freedom. While you’re “free” to have an ideal, that ideal is just another set of rules you control yourself by…which is of course not freedom. How you came to have those ideals is obvious…(hint: it was not spontaneous). Why should you have ideals in the first place…are you confused? Ideals are something away from you, not an actual fact. You can have the ideal of non-violence and still be violent. In fact, if you do have and ideal of non-violence, you probably are violent. A person who IS non-violent doesn’t have an ideal of non-violence.
    Libertarianism, free-markets, your limited ideal of freedom are all empty ideals that mean nothing to a hungry person. What matters is what is, not this wack-ass proselytizing about what should be. I don’t need to believe freedom does or does not exist. It either does or it doesn’t. Personal responsibility and freedom are not the same thing. Why try to equate the 2.
    “Accepting how things are” and ‘striving for an ideal’.. I didn’t know that life was either, or/
    Your actions ARE a result of history….period. This is so simple, it doesn’t need explaining. Here’s an idea for the theoretical-happy: If you had no memory, what would you do? You didn’t come up with “your ideals” by yourself. Some1 else did. Suppose that you did come up with your ideal…..you then striving for it just only shows the same pattern…your restraining your action to something of the past. Anyways, this is way off topic. Carry on by yourself if you like.

    @Rich: Groups do exist. Individuals should exist, but sadly not so many do. If groups didn’t exist, Stalin and Hitler would not have been able to do what t hey did.
    I don’t much care for reparations. If the system is broke then fix it, reparations are only a band-aid. As to your “absurd” question: You did benefit from pre WWII developments. At its most basic level, how do you think your grandparents had a place to run away too. Now add all the extra shyt on privilege, etc etc. Read the site.
    And with these ridiculous if questions of yours: At what point did Restructure say their should be a racial pecking order?
    Dang I read all that, just only now to see that it barely had anything to do with the topic. What a waste of time…geesh. Sorry for taking up all the post time, Restructure.

  21. Rich Says:

    Groups exist?

    Here’s a thought experiment for you:

    If you took one of your precious groups, and you killed all the human members of that group, what would remain (apart from the corpses). Group identification is simply an epistemological category. Only the *individual human beings* that make up the group exist. When the people die, the group is gone.

  22. Rich Says:

    I think it interesting that you have reversed your position. Instead of saying that “blacks should be more equal that whites”, you now appear to be saying that “blacks who are descendants of slaves should be favored over whites who are descendants of slave owners”.

    You have, however, failed to give any details on how genetic guilt or inherited badness should be determined. Your first proposal, that people with black skin should be “more equal” than people with white skin had the advantage of simplicity.

    Are you proposing that each and every human being in America be forced to go to court and have his level of “racial guilt” assessed? Perhaps they could rate it on a scale of 1 to 10, and your future opportunities could be enhanced or curtailed by that factor.

    How much would it cost to do a genealogical study of every American to determine every point at which his life may have been somehow affected by something that may have had something to do with slavery? There are, after all, 300,000,000 Americans. And what is the burden of proof? Preponderance of the evidence, or beyond a reasonable doubt.

    And again, this is important to me, please tell me:

    Am I, as an adopted child, responsible for the crimes of my genetic ancestors, or those committed by the ancestors of those who adopted me?

    Am I, as an adopted child, responsible for the crimes of my genetic ancestors, or those committed by the ancestors of those who adopted me?

    Am I, as an adopted child, responsible for the crimes of my genetic ancestors, or those committed by the ancestors of those who adopted me?

    Am I, as an adopted child, responsible for the crimes of my genetic ancestors, or those committed by the ancestors of those who adopted me?

    Am I, as an adopted child, responsible for the crimes of my genetic ancestors, or those committed by the ancestors of those who adopted me?

    Hopefully you’ll notice this question this time.

    It is important because it tells me whether you accept the “corruption of blood theory” — that one born of “bad” parents is “bad” by virtue of his blood regardless of any choices he may make — or the “corruption of property theory” — in which anybody who owns property which was created as a direct or indirect result of some arbitrary injustice is held to be guilty of that injustice.

  23. Rich Says:

    Note also that adoption records are sealed, so in order to access my “racial guilt”, you will either have to unseal them, or attach a penalty to the crime of “being a white guy of unknown origin”.

    Also, there is another question: let us imagine that we took some piece of land, we killed all the inhabitants (don’t worry, we’ll be sure to use an area which is entirely or almost entirely white), and we allowed homesteading *ON THAT LAND*. The rule would be that homesteaders would have to arrive naked and without artifacts, so we are sure that no “criminal property” has entered this area.

    The question is, would you still reject Liberty within this (now sanitized of property “cursed” by history) area?

  24. thewhatifgirl Says:

    I’m bored to death by all this libertarian postulating above me so I’m not even going to reply to it, but this is a great article, Restructure! It doesn’t even necessarily apply only to “rich” (in the American sense) people either; I’ve known several lower middle class white men who subscribe to this philosophy.

  25. Rich Says:

    Very few Libertarians are actually rich.

    This is because those who are rich today are those who know how to play the government’s Socialist corporate welfare programs. Libertarians are horrified by such programs and want no part of them.

    I went through hell even convincing myself to accept unemployment after I was fired by Citibank for speaking out against the bailouts which are lengthening and deepening our depression. Finally I decided to do it, on the theory that one may justly “claw back” stolen property by hook or by crook. Of course this is taking the property back from the people who stole it from me — the government — not from some arbitrary guys who look somewhat like the government.

  26. Rich Says:

    Just so you know, this was pre-Obama … i was opposing Bush’s bailouts, just as I now oppose Obama’s bailouts.

    I know that anybody who disagrees with Obama is considered racist, hopefully this will mitigate my “crime” of disagreeing with Obama.

  27. Restructure! Says:

    I’ll have a more detailed reply later, but here are some points I want to address.

    Robyn,

    That a person should not have to pay for the sins of her ancestors is fair, but only if the person does not also benefit from the sins of her ancestors. If people do not pay the debts of their ancestors and they are not allowed to inherit property or gifts from their ancestors or relatives, then property is the fruit of their labor. Otherwise, the system is designed to benefit those whose ancestors acquired property through force or fraud.

    Rich,

    I never said “blacks should be more equal that whites” (whatever that means) or “people with black skin should be “more equal” than people with white skin” (whatever that means). Where did I say that? Stop attacking straw men.

    I also never said “blacks who are descendants of slaves should be favored over whites who are descendants of slave owners”, as I do not know what you mean by “should be favored”.

    This has nothing to do with “good” or “bad” people or “goodness” versus “badness”. This about libertarians defining “property” a certain way who do not follow through with the historical implications of slavery and accumulated wealth via slavery. I don’t really care for moral evaluation of individuals, as it has nothing to do with anything.

    Am I, as an adopted child, responsible for the crimes of my genetic ancestors, or those committed by the ancestors of those who adopted me?

    Neither. However, if your inherited wealth was acquired through force or fraud (I don’t know if your genetic ancestors passed down money to you), then you owe reparations to those who are paying for the sins of your ancestors (genetic or adoptive).

  28. Rich Says:

    Well, your programs are very different than the actual programs which claim to “address” historical problems (e.g. affirmative action, which declares that blacks are “more equal” than whites, and that if faced with a white applicant for a job and a less qualified black applicant, the latter should be hired.

    The phrase “more equal” comes from a book called “Animal Farm”, by George Orwell. It is an illustration of how Socialism becomes a system whereby those with political power can exploit those who lack it. After the animals took over the farm, they posted a list of rules. The first rule was “all of the animals are equal”. After the pigs had captured the political system, and used it to enrich themselves and impoverish everyone else (for their own good, of course), they amended the first rule by adding “but some animals are more equal than others”. This is from memory, but it is the gist of it. If you’re interested in Socialism, you should read it, because it gives you an idea what you have to look forward.

    Hint: Socialized medicine takes on a whole new meaning when you realize that anyone who disagrees with the government is unlikely to live very long, because they can be denied care by their oppressors, and also denied the right to pay for their own care with their own production.

  29. Rich Says:

    It still sounds like you are proposing some kind of title search, where each and every piece of property would have to be evaluated for having any “historical taint”, and then awarded to some arbitrary person to “make up” for the fact that it may or may have changed hands one or more times through force or fraud.

    If you’ve read any history, you will know that the historical record is more murky than we like to think and that historians would be hard pressed to make the evaluations you ask of them.

    If you know anything about law, you will know that decisions made by courts are frequently very bad, and that the issue of “force or fraud”, as examined 150 years after the fact, are probably a bit more murky than you’d like to think.

    But *if* you were willing to allow people to live by their own values *after* the “great litigation”, then I don’t care if you do it or not … as I say, the distribution of property is pretty much random now, and as we become more Socialist, and descend into economic chaos, it will become more and more disconnected from actual production.

    Of course, I reserve the right to rob a bank of the bailout money which was stolen from me and given to them.

  30. thewhatifgirl Says:

    Actually, I do want to say that I’m impressed with the lack of historical understanding and logic demonstrated just in this thread. Rich and Robyn, if someone steals from you and you then die, does that mean the case against that thief should automatically disappear because you are no longer there to claim the product of your own labor? Or do your descendants likewise have a claim against the thief because they expected (reasonably) to inherit what that thief stole? Or does inheritance not even figure into the equation at all, in which case I would ask where it goes? (I’m sure we’ll get to see you pulling yourselves into all kinds of mental contortions to try to evade what I’m getting at but that will just make you look disingenuous so have fun.)

  31. Rich Says:

    We will also become much poorer as we descend into Socialism, so we’ll have less to fight over. That should make things easier. How we end this slide into serfdom is less important than that we end it while this continent is still able to feed the people who live on it. With the increasing government control of agriculture, this is becoming less and less likely. The fight against Socialism is a fight for our very lives.

  32. Rich Says:

    Rich and Robyn, if someone steals from you and you then die, does that mean the case against that thief should automatically disappear because you are no longer there to claim the product of your own labor?

    That would be one way to handle it. Generally legal action becomes less likely as time goes on, because witnesses die, documents are destroyed, records are unreliable. Eventually, the cost associated with determining with any certainty the history of an item exceeds the value of the item at issue, and people walk away.

    That’s imperfect, but we live in an imperfect world.

    But remember … we’re talking about shit that happened neither days nor years ago, but decades ago.

    There does come a time when inheritance is considered to belong solely to the inheritor, and to be immune to claims against ancestors. This is similar to bankruptcy or a statute of limitations, in that it acknowledges that part of the system is imperfect, and an imperfect solution will have to do.

    >>> Or do your descendants likewise have a claim against the thief because they expected (reasonably) to inherit what that thief stole?

    In this case, it would be your estate (in the person of your executor), not your descendants, who would sue. It would have to produce evidence that the particular property at issue had been unjustly obtained, and that the particular estate in question had a just claim to have it. It would be nearly impossible, if not impossible, to trace down property which was unjustly obtained more than a century prior, so after such a delay the suit would normally not occur.

    >>> Or does inheritance not even figure into the equation at all, in which case I would ask where it goes?

    Inheritance *can* play into the picture, in a limited way. But you cannot undo history back to the cave man days. The records just don’t exist.

    One way or the other, the question is not “What do people have today”, but “How free should people be to produce in the future”.

    Don’t forget that we’re little hairless monkeys dropped into a hostile world which does deliver the things we need to survive to us on silver platters. Production is the responsibility of every human being who wants to keep breathing. This responsibility is not imposed by Libertarians, but by Nature.

    Don’t shoot the messenger who explains reality to you.

  33. Rich Says:

    hostile world which does deliver the things we need to survive to us on silver platters

    That should read “does not deliver”.

  34. thewhatifgirl Says:

    Except that what they stole from you goes somewhere. If that act of thievery is not brought to justice, the thief’s descendants get to live off of your money. Now let’s say that the thief stole millions from you. Your descendants see their descendants living very comfortable lives while your own descendants are barely scraping by, working as hard as they can while receiving very little in return – sometimes not even enough to live off of. In fact, they work a lot harder than the thief’s descendants but since they didn’t inherit what was supposedly rightfully theirs to inherit, they haven’t been able to create even more wealth for themselves as the thief’s descendants have.

    This is the historical scenario that Native Americans and most African Americans live with into the present day. It’s very convenient that you can forget this history but many, many Native Americans and African Americans gave their health and their lives to build the resources and wealth that you and I are living off of and claiming as our right in the present day. Nobody is asking to undo history – the idea that that is even possible is just silly and shows how much you don’t understand, even though you think you do.

    Unfortunately, the world has delivered a LOT to you and I on silver platters, through no work of our own, though you seem to want to ignore that reality.

    But you know, don’t shoot the messenger who explains reality to you.

  35. thewhatifgirl Says:

    Also, the libertarian utopia should be “cave man days”, if you truly believe that no one should live off of the work of another person. Because you and I, in the present day, are living high on more technological advances than you even realize. If everyone is an island and must produce absolutely everything s/he ever uses, let’s see you come up with your own language distinct from English. Let’s see you build your own house, hunt and grow your own food, cure your own diseases, make your own tools, explain your own environment – but you can’t use the innovations that anyone else has come up with! Because that is the product of *their* labor, not yours.

    Sounds pretty ridiculous, huh? But in your insistence on the utter independence of every human being, that is what you come to.

  36. Rich Says:

    Except that what they stole from you goes somewhere. If that act of thievery is not brought to justice, the thief’s descendants get to live off of your money. Now let’s say that the thief stole millions from you. Your descendants see their descendants living very comfortable lives while your own descendants are barely scraping by, working as hard as they can while receiving very little in return – sometimes not even enough to live off of.

    I’m sure that there are Turks living (partially) off things which were stolen from the Armenians. Very few of the Armenians I know spend their time obsessing about this. I know that I do not. I’d never even wasted a minute’s thought on it before now. Why? Because it is easier to become successful myself than to obsess about ancient history.

    But again, as I say, I support Libertarianism regardless of the initial distribution of property. Or to put it another way, I would give everything I own to be free. So if that’s your only objection to Liberty, lets start negotiating the specifics of how our transition from Corporatism to Capitalism should work. We have come to terms.

  37. thewhatifgirl Says:

    The problem with your conception is the idea that it is “ancient history”. Native Americans lost their land only a few hundred years ago. African Americans were enslaved only a few hundred years ago. But while the most egregious acts against them were committed a couple hundred years ago, other egregious acts continued to be committed against them well into the lifetimes of people who are alive today that have kept them from what you consider “true freedom”. Both are still largely shunted into ghettos and economic isolation by more recent (though not always current) legislation. The effects of that “ancient history” are still reverberating today, so to suggest that they should just “get over it” is to ignore the reality of the situation that was handed down to them.

    I don’t know anything about the situation with Armenians and Turks. Are there Turks alive today who remember Armenians being treated as second-class citizens, like my mother-in-law recalls from her childhood black people being forced to wait for the one “acceptable” seat for them in a half empty restaurant? Do Armenians still face being dragged behind Turkish trucks for simply being Armenians as black people do today? Are Armenians segregated into isolated and desolate pieces of land as many Native Americans are today? Have Armenians been forcibly stripped of their cultural heritage (a more self-sufficient cultural heritage than yours and mine, I might add) as Native Americans were forcibly stripped of their cultural heritage within my parents’ lifetime?

  38. thewhatifgirl Says:

    And how exactly do you account for the economic isolation of certain people of color in your weird concept of liberty that only seems to apply to money and only within a strictly polarized moral framework?

  39. Rich Says:

    The Turks massacred the Armenians during WWI. They killed hundreds of thousands of us. The events were notorious enough that when Hitler was told that the world would not permit genocide, he said “Who remembers the Armenians”. I have seen pictures of huge piles thousands of skulls. My grandmother was the only survivor of her immediate family, as was my grandfather of his. They met here in America in an Armenian neighborhood (what somebody might call an “Armenian Ghetto”, if they were bitter about it. But I think they settled in the same area because they wanted to be close to each other — not as some sort of “plot”).

  40. Rich Says:

    As far as racism goes, there is some racism on either side between the Armenians and the Turks. Every once in a while an Armenian racist kills a Turkish diplomat or a Turkish racist kills an Armenian diplomat. There remain some Armenians in Turkey.

    You will be imprisoned, however, in Turkey if you acknowledge that these events occurred. In France, you will be imprisoned if you deny that they occurred. One Armenian journalist, who had been imprisoned in Turkey for acknowledging the genocide, threatened to go to France and deny the genocide there, because governments should not tell you what to think. Unfortunately, he was murdered by a Turkish teenager before he had a chance.

    Note that I see no difference, morally, between Armenian racists who kill Turks and Turkish racists who kill Armenians.

    There is no place where you cannot be killed for being black, or being white, or being Armenian, or being Turkish, or being Muslim, or not being Muslim. There are crazy people of all persuasions, and one of them could always take a dislike to anybody for any irrational reason. The only solution to *that* person is for each and every adult to take the time and trouble to arm himself and be responsible for his own defense.

  41. Rich Says:

    But economic isolation is a different issue. That is largely a product of public schooling, which locks most Americans into paying through the nose for an education which does not merit the label. The best way to solve this problem is a complete separation of School and State. That does not mean that the State cannot *pay* for education. The best possible “public” education system would be one in which the state issued coupons which could be redeemed at any school, and the parents were allowed to choose any privately run school to which to send their children. Note that private school costs about half as much as public school, and that the education delivered is immeasurably better.

  42. Rich Says:

    And how exactly do you account for the economic isolation of certain people of color in your weird concept of liberty that only seems to apply to money and only within a strictly polarized moral framework?

    Under the system I propose, I would not only be shocked and amazed if something like this existed. I’m afraid that in order for me to explain why, you would have no know something of basic free market economics. Even if this condition existed when a Libertarian system was established, I cannot imagine that it would persist.

    I can give you a referral to an excellent book, called “Economics for Real People”, which lays out the basics of Austrian economics, which appears to be the most accurate school of economic thought (it was the only one whose members predicted the economic collapse and know how to fix it).

    The short answer is that in a free society, where people were able to go about their business with low taxes, no government interventions into the market, and what Adam Smith called “a tolerable administration of justice”, there would be such economic growth that the primary concern of business would be “where can we hire more people?”. Recruiters would be lined up outside the prisons, waiting for a release, because there would be no other place to find unemployed people. Under these conditions, companies which discriminated would place themselves at a competitive disadvantage, and would probably bankrupt themselves. At the same time, companies which did not discriminate would make *more* money, since they could hire anyone, and the bigotted companies could not. The end result is that discrimination would be economic suicide.

  43. Robyn Says:

    thewhatifgirl –

    If someone steals something from me, and I die, of course the thief is still responsible for his act of theft – but not his descendants. Of course, if the thief tries to give his children money that they know he stole, it would be wrong for them to accept it. If they don’t realize that it has been stolen, and if my children want to claim their rightful inheritance from the children of the thief, they have to be able to prove that it is their rightful inheritance. If I say to you, “Your grandfather stole a thousand dollars from my grandfather, and it was never returned, so give me a thousand dollars”, are you going to hand over the money, or ask for proof, since you don’t know if the theft ever even occurred the way I described?

    By the way, Rich, you make a good point in your post regarding this issue.

    HardL –

    The only thing that confuses me is how you come up with nonsensical statements such as, but not limited to the following: “…if you do have an ideal of non-violence, you probably are violent. A person who IS non-violent doesn’t have an ideal of non-violence.” If you claim that you have an ideal, but don’t live by that ideal, then you’re a hypocrite. Maybe you don’t know a lot of people who live by their ideals…? I’m not going to waste my time arguing with this sort of nonsense. I have nothing more to say to you unless you start using logic in your statements.

    Restructure! –

    “That a person should not have to pay for the sins of her ancestors is fair, but only if the person does not also benefit from the sins of her ancestors. If people do not pay the debts of their ancestors and they are not allowed to inherit property or gifts from their ancestors or relatives, then property is the fruit of their labor. Otherwise, the system is designed to benefit those whose ancestors acquired property through force or fraud.”

    I guess I’m okay, then, because I have not inherited any stolen property. If you have a lamp that you bought with money you earned yourself, I certainly hope that if you choose to leave it to your children, that no one will try to stop them from claiming their inheritance.

  44. Rich2 Says:

    It’s ironic that one who calls himself Rich would have such poor ideas.

  45. Nquest Says:

    This was my response to an unsupported claim made by another denialist on Racism Review which I believe applies here (the denialist claimed America does not practice systematic white racism today):

    When did America completely undo past practices of systematic [white] racism (which requires more than just ’stopping’ or ending such past practices)?

    For example, one systematic/institutional racist practice was denying African-Americans the opportunity to attend most colleges and universities. That practice, of course, hardly exist any more but, while there is all kinds of outrage over affirmative action, a White [elite] advantaging legacy system remains in place — a virtual systematic/institutional hold-over from an admittedly racist past.

    While that’s not even the kind of example I wanted to point out, it does show how at odds your view is with the reality and how easy it is to demonstrate systematic racism.

    Both the U.S. Senate and House have apologized for slavery and Jim Crow but the kind of reparations that would undo the kind of social advantage Whites gained at the expense of African-Americans or the kind of reparations that would compensate African-Americans for the material losses/damages they collectively incurred… well, those are “divisive” issues that America has never dealt with. Never.

    That kind of denial of reparations/compensation has been systematic from Reconstruction to the present day.

    Beyond that, perhaps the biggest source of racial inequality exists as a result of systematic racism in the housing markets. And, yes, housing discrimination remains an example of on-going systematic racism. More importantly, it is evidence of racial wrongs never undone/corrected/compensated for.

    One can argue that the kind of restrictive covenants Levittown represented have been outlawed but the mere passing laws (and poorly enforced laws at that) didn’t undo the inequality set in place by those racist policies of yesteryear. White families that were favored by those policies continue to be so favored because of the nature of the housing markets. Up until the current economic crisis, those houses that racism built were a constant source of increasing wealth for White suburbanites blessed by the nation’s racist, White favoring policies of yesteryear.

    That kind of racist wealth inequality was never undone which, by definition, means the systematic racist policies remain in place, in the practiced, lived reality-effect, if not in fact.

    I think that mirrors some of what you’ve said here, Restructure. I also wonder why Rich’s and Robyn’s perspective is so one-sided. All they can see is the White side and, as a result, they end up doing just what the Libertarians do — advancing a philosophy that leaves the racist inequality in place. Apparently, they are both okay with it and have a problem applying the same principles to Blacks/non-whites that they want to apply to Whites.

    you owe reparations to those who are paying for the sins of your ancestors

    Even what that stated, for some reason, Rich and Robyn found it too hard to apply the “present generation should not have to pay for the mistakes/sins of the past generation(s)” to African-Americans who are left with the deficit/disadvantage they inherit from their answers as a result of past racism as well as the racial stigma inherited from the racist ideas society inherits and reproduces from past generations.

    So the fact that African-Americans, in this case, do pay for the sins of the past… Well, Rich and Robyn could give a f-ck as long as they can remain in this fantasy land where they can accept the White Privilege assets inherited from the past (simply not being White and not being Black is enough of an social inheritance, let alone any direct community inheritance Whiteness affords them) but conveniently believe they can reject the social/national debt incurred from the past.

    Japanese Americans received reparations and the supposed fundamental unfairness doctrine Rich and Robyn want to claim didn’t apply then. Or, I should say: it didn’t matter whether taxpayers such as my Black self and my Black parents and grandparents had nothing to do with Japanese internment. Me nor my parents were alive during WWII. My grandparents could hardly be held responsible for not only were they not participants in interning Japanese Americans but they were themselves ”interned” via America’s racial apartheid system.

    So we can talk about unfairness… but I doubt White people aren’t really willing to go there. Heck, I find it unfair/unjust for non-whites to pay taxes into a system of government where Whites ultimately control what’s done with Black/non-white people’s taxes. It’s totally unfair/unjust in my book especially given this countries racist history and given the well-documented inattention/indifference to issues/projects Blacks/non-whites favor but Whites oppose.

  46. Nquest Says:

    “In the 1940s and 1950s the whole country was living in central cities or in rural areas. Suburbs as we know them hadn’t come into existence. There was a tremendous demand for housing at the end of World War II, and the federal government stepped into the breach, and stepped into the role of addressing the demand for housing, as it also stepped into the role of addressing the demand for civil rights and inclusion by blacks.

    In creating the suburbs it was explicit that the suburbs were for whites only. You had a couple of things happening at the same time: You had the end of the war. You had blacks coming to the North and to urban areas in record numbers. You had demands for civil rights, and you had the federal government essentially paying white people to leave the central city and to live in this new space – a white space – called the suburbs.

    The structure of that is still what we’re living with today…

    In the 1950s something like 80 percent of the building that was happening across the country was happening in the suburbs, so all of our national resources were going out of the central city to support white folks moving out into the suburbs. Now, some of those white folks moving out of the central city were happy to live among black people, but the federal government and certainly Levitt refused that. They said, no this will be a white space. In fact, Levitt evicted some white people who wanted to attract and open up housing to people of color.

    So this fundamental framework was established – not just of having white suburbs and concentrating minorities in the central city, but also depopulating and depleting resources for the central city and creating this division between the suburbs and the city. And, I would say, redefining whiteness in a particular way. A good neighborhood became a white neighborhood…”

    http://www.pbs.org/race/000_About/002_04-background-03-06.htm

  47. Nquest Says:

    What’s an example of white privilege?

    In trying to understand the power and privilege of whiteness, I like to get whites to ask themselves, how did I get my job? That is a good question to start with. Because very few people get their job in some formal way, where they see an ad in the paper, and then go apply, get an interview and then get the job. Mostly, people get their jobs through social networks and connections. Usually it’s someone you know – your uncle in the next city or a friend of a friend who knows somebody in your industry. And that is how we get the foot in the door.

    Unfortunately, because most jobs in businesses are controlled or owned by whites, given the structure of ownership in America, that leads to the perpetuation of racial inequality in the labor market. Whites tend to hire whites because they get them through their personal networks, which tend to be white. Minorities who aren’t as directly connected to the people who are owning and controlling jobs are left out of this. And of course, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy in a vicious circle.

    [more]

    How does past wealth help the future generation?

    As individuals, we like to think that our property is a result of our talent, hard work or even luck – that it’s our individual fruits of labor. But economists have shown that about 50-80% of our lifetime wealth accumulation is really attributable, in one way or another, to past generations.

    Inheritance actually plays a small role in that. What’s more common is something like your parents financing your college education, supporting you while you’re in school or taking care of you, letting you live with them, while you’re looking for a job. It’s also little gifts along the way, co-signing the loan for a mortgage, that sort of thing.

    All those kind of things lead to lifetime wealth accumulation. And it’s this enormous debt we have to our ancestors’ wealth that largely explains the perpetuation – in addition to discrimination and government policies – of racial equality in wealth over generations.

    So a lot of our wealth comes from our ancestors. Since whites have wealth in their family histories to a disproportionate amount, they’re able to confer wealth upon their descendants, and this reproduces racial inequality.

    Blacks, on the other hand, tend to have not had wealth accumulation in the past generations for a variety of reasons. But whatever those reasons, even if the current generation makes a lot of money – because there’s not also the past wealth to pass on, this racial inequity in wealth gets reproduced generation after generation, and maybe in fact gets worse.

    http://www.pbs.org/race/000_About/002_04-background-03-03.htm

  48. Therese Says:

    A normative statement is a statement about how things should be, while a descriptive statement is a statement about how things are.

    Some people confuse statements about how things should be as being about how things actually are. *grumble*

  49. Lxy Says:

    Stick figure videos are always entertaining–though not necessarily illuminating. Maybe if they included a few more smiley faces in it. ;-)

    Cool music though.

  50. Restructure! Says:

    Rich,

    Why are you bringing up Affirmative Action? The post was about reparations, not “stuff white people don’t like”. Stay on topic.

    Reparations should be paid for through taxes, which, of course, you oppose. From stuff white people do: dismiss the idea of reparations:

    What blacks wanted most of all, more than education and voting rights, was economic power, and they viewed landownership as the basis of economic power. Their demand for land, they argued, was reasonable and just. For one thing, they had paid for it through their military participation in the war: 186,000 blacks, most of them recruited or conscripted in the slave states, had served in the Union Army, and one-third of them were listed as missing or dead.

    Blacks as soldiers had helped to bring the war to an end, and they felt they were entitled to some land.

    Some Radical Republicans including Charles Sumner, Thaddeus Stevens, and George W. Julian understood the need to grant land to the freed slaves. They argued that emancipation had to be accompanied by land confiscation from the planter class and land distribution to the newly freed blacks. The perpetuation of the large estates [on which slaves had formerly worked] would mean the development of a semifeudal system based on the cheap labor of exploited and powerless blacks.

    Also, you benefit from the land that was taken by force from Native Americans.

    Of course you do not care about reparations for the Armenian genocide, since you live in the United States and are at least upper-middle class, but many other Armenians do demand reparations.

  51. Restructure! Says:

    Lxy,

    It’s stylistically excellent and a great visualization, but it makes sense only in stick-figure-drawing land.

  52. Nquest Says:

    Restructure, thanks for the reparations link to the article on Macon’s blog. It’s one of the few, if not the only, time I’ve seen Black soldiers in the Civil War cited as having an expectation for “40 acres and a mule” (which, ironically, was the type of “freedom dues” indentured servants, black and white, received after their terms of indenture were completed).

    Usually (and probably because I’m not well-read) the “40 acres and a mule” idea only gets framed as the Sumner’s idea. Also, “40 acres” was a quarter of what Whites were being offered/given via the Homestead Act(s) where tracks of land, 160 acres in the West was given to Whites in the way the GI Bill infamously was, in racist practice, WHITE ONLY by and large.

    Then, to make matters worse, once African-Americans were able to acquire land after starting from negative scratch (share cropping and all the stuff in Slavery By Any Other Name), the racist practices and terrorism in the South resulted in Blacks having what little land they did have stolen — serious negative scratch.

    Then you had all kinds of race riots like Tulsa, OK and the Wilmington coup… all the Sundown Towns and before that, in the North before Emancipation, the NY Draft Riots in which Irish immigrants joined in with those perpetrating violent acts of domestic terrorism against African-Americans in the kind of misdirected angst that still persists.

    More directly, Pres. Lincoln proposed compensating slave-owners “for their loss” which, ironically, set a value on so-called “slave capital” estimated at $4 Billion dollars at the time. And, new to me, compensation was given to slave owners (in Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri,Kansas, Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, etc.) who allowed their slaves, one way or the other, to fight for the Union. (Before, I only thought slave owners in D.C. were compensated.)

    You know, that would be money the taxpayers paid, you know, for big chunk of the 186,000 Black soldiers who fought in the Civil War. And then, when those soldiers who “bled and died” for this country — and did so receiving nearly half of what White soldiers were paid — sought a pension (of course, after being denied land), that kind of reparations claim was denied when they were alive all the way up until 1915 and so their children were disadvantaged and OWED especially when compared to the inheritance children of White soldiers who, according to standard, sympathetic “they died to free the slaves” stories, were generally poor prior to service and, of course, they received pensions and disability compensation and money was no object:

    At its peak, the Civil War pension system consumed approximately 45 percent of all federal revenue and was the largest department of the federal government (other than the armed services).

    http://www.slaverybyanothername.com/the-book/
    http://www.theauthenticvoice.org/Torn_From_The_Land_Intro.html
    http://www.tulsareparations.org/TulsaRiot.htm
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilmington_Insurrection_of_1898
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/10/20/AR2005102001715.html
    http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/317749.html
    http://www.sethkaller.net/catalogs/41-civil-war/296-lincoln-convenes-cabinet-to-discuss-compensated-emancipation-first-presidential-proposal-for-abolition
    http://docs.google.com/gview?a=v&q=cache:RC318ObNbhQJ:www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/blj/vol20
    http://www.slcl.org/branches/hq/sc/jkh/slaveclaims/intro.htm
    http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/blacks-civil-war/
    http://www.theloop21.com/blogs/struggle-for-reparations-nothing-new
    http://www.answers.com/topic/civil-war-pensions

  53. Nquest Says:

    Let me add that all those riots had serious economic consequences by either destroying Black homes and businesses and limiting employment opportunities… And one note from something Dr. King said reflecting on that kind of history and how self-righteous and unaware our White brothers and sisters are:

    “They never stop to realize that no other ethnic group has been a slave on American soil. The people who say this never stop to realize that the nation made the black man’s color a stigma. But beyond this they never stop to realize the debt that they owe a people who were kept in slavery two hundred and forty-four years.

    In 1863 the Negro was told that he was free as a result of the Emancipation Proclamation being signed by Abraham Lincoln. But he was not given any land to make that freedom meaningful….

    Every court of jurisprudence would rise up against this, and yet this is the very thing that our nation did to the black man. It simply said, “You’re free,” and it left him there penniless, illiterate, not knowing what to do. And the irony of it all is that at the same time the nation failed to do anything for the black man, though an act of Congress was giving away millions of acres of land in the West and the Midwest. Which meant that it was willing to undergird its white peasants from Europe with an economic floor.

    But not only did it give the land, it built land-grant colleges to teach them how to farm. Not only that, it provided county agents to further their expertise in farming; not only that, as the years unfolded it provided low interest rates so that they could mechanize their farms. And to this day thousands of these very persons are receiving millions of dollars in federal subsidies every years not to farm. And these are so often the very people who tell Negroes that they must lift themselves by their own bootstraps. It’s all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is a cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.”

    And I’ll add to that, another statement he made with the clearest of logic:

    “Whenever this issue of compensatory or preferential treatment of the Negro is raised, some of our friends recoil in horror. The Negro should be granted equality, they agree, but he should ask nothing more. On the surface, this appears reasonable, but it is not realistic. For it is obvious that if a man is entered at the starting line in a race 300 years after another man, the first would have to perform some impossible feat in order to catch up with his fellow runner.”

    Note: Dr. King’s logic works for intergenerational, familial relays as well as one-man marathons.

    On a different note… Jobs African-Americans have had since slavery and since the federal/state income tax laws were insisted amount to them/us financing our own oppression or, since the anti-reparations idea is to protest the ‘unfairness’ of taxes spent on things the taxpayer disagrees with (and considers unfair)… Well, at the very least we can go back to 1913, if not before that, and say that Black taxpayers up until 1965 or 1970 are owed refunds… And, hell, since people think the election of Obama means something different… we can go from 1913 to 2008 because strong arguments can be made that there wasn’t even a semblance of “fairness” in terms of African-American taxpayers having a deciding vote in how their tax dollars have been spent — i.e. we can list any number of tax dollar sucking policies African-Americans generally disapproved off including the G.W. Bush’s expensive Iraq war.

  54. thewhatifgirl Says:

    Nquest, I hope you don’t mind if I add that America’s wealth was created in large part on the slave labor of those African Americans. The products of African American labor were stolen from them through slavery for several hundred years in this country in order to make white people rich. The slaves sacrificed far more than even indentured white people sacrificed and saw nothing in return but hatred and degradation. That wealth didn’t stay in the pre-Civil War South, either; it traveled North, it traveled West, and it continued into the present day – still disproportionately in the hands of white Americans.

    On top of that, as Nquest has already shown, other economic acts of thievery continued to occur. The race riot that happened in Tulsa, Oklahoma has been attributed by some to white’s economic envy and greed, since the (forcibly-segregated) black economy was doing far better than the white economy in the area at the time.

    And white people still benefit today from that which was stolen from black people for the past 200+ years – wealth that “can’t be traced back” because white people colluded with each other in obscuring the origins so that they could keep it for themselves. You really don’t think that a thief will ever willingly tell where their money came from, do you? And since we white people have been trained since birth to disbelieve what any person of color says, and since we are the ones writing the history books that school children read (and that very few white adults read past or question), we can happily continue in our revelry with the fruits of other people’s labor while claiming “plausible deniability”.

  55. Lxy Says:

    “Why are you bringing up Affirmative Action? The post was about reparations, not “stuff white people don’t like”. Stay on topic.”

    LOL. Stuff White People Don’t Like would actually be a really interesting idea for a website.

    It would be fun coming with a list of things White people don’t like, as there would be no end to the possible topics and items involved.

  56. Restructure! Says:

    @Lxy:

    You should make that blog!

    1. Reparations
    2. Affirmative Action
    3. Black History Month
    4. BET

  57. DaisyDeadhead Says:

    First: this is a great thread! Good work! A real live POLITICAL CONVERSATION IN BLOGDONIA?!? Damn, think I’m gonna faint.

    I like the Libertarians on: guns, drugs, sex work and porn.
    I tend to back them when they focus on those issues, here in the hyper-conservative south. And all of those issues (except guns), are about LOTS OF GOVT REVENUE TO BE MADE, so there is the matter of taxation and law enforcement, and I like their approach to these. I voted strategically for Ron Paul in the South Carolina GOP primary (this is a thoroughly red state); if we could get the dopey moralists out of the GOP, might be able to have a real economic debate.

    I also like the some of the multi-party rhetoric (notice this on Rich’s website too): people have been made ignorant and helpless by the system and not enough leftists acknowledge this fact. For example, the Lt Gov of my state came into the retail establishment where I work last week, and only me and one other employee recognized him. When I told people who it was, they barely knew the name. Most people are not involved in the political process and are ignorant. The Libertarians make good points when they attribute this learned helplessness to the current two-party system.

    Having said all that, I agree with your racial analysis. Also, Libertarians have a radical anti-immigration “Minuteman” faction that I am particularly uncomfortable with.

  58. Angel H. Says:

    Restructure:

    3. Black History Month

    Hmm…I think that would go in the “like” pile. =P

  59. Angel H. Says:

    D’oh! I mean…

    Restructure:

    4. BET

    Hmm…I think that would go in the “like” pile. =P

  60. Lxy Says:

    @Lxy:

    You should make that blog!

    1. Reparations
    2. Affirmative Action
    3. Black History Month
    4. BET

    I just hope that “Stuff White People Like” wouldn’t sue me for some copyright infringement thing.

    Item #5051 that White People Really, Really Don’t Like: Mocking White attempts at self-deprecating humor, while defying intellectual property rights.

  61. octogalore Says:

    There are a number of good points here. However, the analysis of libertarianism is overly simplistic. If you look it up, eg in wiki, you’ll note there are a number of variations. Just like very few people are 100% liberal, conservative, heterosexual, whatever, very few are 100% libertarian. I’m a left libertarian, for example: socially liberal and economically moderate.

    Many libertarians do in fact acknowledge that property is due to inherited as well as individual factors.

    Also, you talk about libertarian economic policy focusing on concentrating wealth. But you confuse wealth — net worth — and income. I had moderate libertarian economic views ten years ago at a time when my net worth was negative six figures (the direction of money from me to family members after the age of 18 was outwards, and continues to be). Highly progressive income taxes tax productivity, not wealth. 2/3 of new jobs come from small companies, which are often better employers for POC and women than large corporations. Small companies tend to have more dynamic income than net worth, and therefore when hit by taxes, jobs dry up.

    Irrespective of whether you believe in the above, a number of POC do. While I personally have a number of POC libertarian or conservative friends, don’t take my word for it — there are many such groups online and offline. Saying “libertarianism is for white people,” when a number of POC believe these principles are the best for class mobility, seems to be speaking for folks who aren’t present.

  62. Restructure! Says:

    Good points, octogalore.

    I changed the title now from “libertarianism is for rich white people” to “libertarianism is rational for rich white people only”, which (now) doesn’t erase libertarians of color, but makes a stronger, more specific claim about what the “for” was supposed to mean.

    Aren’t all libertarians socially liberal? From Wikipedia and the libertarian article on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, it looks like the difference between left and right libertarianism is whether land and natural resources are considered property.

    I’m not convinced that income taxes tax productivity only, as people’s level of education is a function of (inherited) wealth. So are jobs obtained through family and social connections.

    If small companies are better than large corporations, then shouldn’t corporate income tax be progressive?

  63. TheGoriWife Says:

    I really enjoyed this article and feel a little better armed for dealing with some libretarian friends & family. Thanks.

  64. Rich Says:

    The stuff about starting a “things white people don’t like” is an interesting, if racist, idea. Of course, it assumes that what people think and feel is somehow related to the color of their skin, which is unlikely, but it’s an interesting theory.

    As for whether corporate income taxes should be progressive, that too is interesting. First, let me say that I don’t think that the Government should be creating corporations in the first place. The corporate form tends to be much less efficient than the more traditional sole proprietorship, the simple partnership, or the “joint stock company”, which is similar to a corporation but does not have the limited liability (ability to escape responsibility) that characterizes the current corporate form.

    That said, they’re created by governments, so (from your perspective) they must be good, so lets assume that they continue.

    A large company may be more or less efficient than a small company that is engaged in the same business, or visa versa. As companies grow, they are able to take advantages of economies of scale which are unavailable to smaller companies. At the same time, however, a large company becomes harder and harder to manage as they grow. These changes with company size are called “economies of scale” or “diseconomies of scale” respectively. In any given set of circumstances, there is a “peak” in efficiency, at which the company produces as much value as possible while using as few resources as possible. This is, for society, the most beneficial size for the company. The market will, if the government does not prevent production or award a monopoly, keep companies near their most efficient size. This is, interestingly enough, the size at which the company will produce the greatest return on investment, so there is no need to force companies to this size, since it is both the most productive size, and therefore the most profitable size in a free market.

    You can monkey with company size if you like. You will make society poorer with each manipulation.

  65. Lxy Says:

    The stuff about starting a “things white people don’t like” is an interesting, if racist, idea. Of course, it assumes that what people think and feel is somehow related to the color of their skin, which is unlikely, but it’s an interesting theory.

    Your comment is a good example of Stuff that White People Like: Manipulate the issue of racism itself in order to play the White Victim card, and ultimately dismiss any critical (or humorous) examination of White power and privilege–which of course don’t exist in your Libertarian Free Market Utopia of Atomized Individuals.

    I should submit your comment as a case study to StuffWhitePeopleLike.com

  66. Rich Says:

    Works for me — Stuff This White Person Likes:

    Freedom
    Personal Responsibility
    Equal Protection of the Law
    Civil Rights, including the right to Keep and Bear Arms
    Judging people by who they are, not what (group) they are

    Basic individualist stuff, I guess. But I can only speak for one person. Presuming to speak for all whites, all blacks, or all libertarians would be presumptuous.

  67. EA aka G531 Says:

    Restructure! Thank you for this entry and for this post.
    To address Rich, even further, I would like to situate my education as an example.
    I am a boarding school brat, as is my sister. From the first day we entered our classroom we were asked why we took Spanish because we already knew the language; reminded by peers that because we were of color, from an urban area, and performed our middle-working class fairly well, we would 1) be perceived as charity cases 2) our worth would be continuously questioned.
    We came from a school in which the majority of students were grand/children of immigrants, were told that as individuals some of us were great but as a collective, we had much to work on. Where the teachers were white and continuously imposed on us assignments which we could not financially afford to finish and presumptions that took for granted the political persecution, as a result of U.S. intervention, that informed most of our families’ immigration.
    The rich white individuals with whom I attended high school were less likely to get arrested for using drugs, were still afforded entry into prestigious schools despite drug consumption, heavy underage drinking and practices of homphobia and racism in their daily interactions with nonwhite and lgbt students.
    The personal responsibility you speak of, equal protection of the law, Rich, (look at what Tim Wise has to say on the rates of arrest of whites vs. people of color when it comes to weed; legislation on crack vs. cocaine and the demographics of users), is something that is a myth in this country. Look up, for example, a “New York Time’s” article that had come up in the past couple months that discusses how a black police officer was shot by a white police officer because the latter presumed the former’s ownership of a gun was a result of his criminality.
    Getting back to my education as a result of hard work and effort vs. the reality of interdependency and imposed co-dependency. In graduate school, I learned that the family that owned one of the pharmaceutical companies that tested birth control, spermicide and other contraceptives on my mother’s community may have been the same family that funded my education. Research from scientists, doctors and social science scholars are proving that the cancer rates among the women tested and their children are fairly high. These are women who worked hard to follow the law, seek health care funded by companies that perceived them as subhuman and are still suffering the consequences of subscribing to an individualistic work ethic based on libertarianism that, simultaneously believed them savage and underdeveloped.
    Also, worthy of note, getting back to my education credentials that are proof of lack of responsibility, lack of civil rights and equal protection under the law. My elementary
    schoolbooks were ten years old; students, because of low funding, cleaned school furniture because the institution could not afford a custodial staff to do so. The number of students who could not ‘walk’ or graduate from my high school were never arrested for drug possession or selling, despite knowing that a few young white men were doing so and, in contrast to the young men of color from my community, selling drugs not only could get them kicked out of school, not only were they more likely presumed to be selling, but they would serve jail time. And, these young white men, whose fathers displaced urban communities, benefitted from sweatshop labor and built multi-million dollar facilities for my school on trust funds and investments whose foundations were the ‘rewards’ of their ancestors’ work in genocide, slavery, and imperialism, are now more likely to get involved in political office, run said corporations that are contributing to pollution, exploitation of labor, and endorse policies that will dissimenate natural resources of ‘underdeveloped countries’ to the extent that citizens of said countries feel they have no other choice but to emigrate to the U.S. where they will be policed, harassed, blamed for the plight and strain of the economy all the while contributing to social security, mowing their lawns, upkeeping their houses in Martha’s Vineyard and washing the dishes in the restaurants in which they eat. All because supposedly these immigrants only grow the plants which the ‘old boy network’ consumed in the form of drugs as young men. These young white men who attended a school in which more than $50,000 dollars is spent on each student while the states these men may represent as Congressmen spend $5000 per student in one district, $10,000 in another. And, I’m supposed to be grateful I had the good fortune of leaving family, friends, a more racially diverse and less bigoted space because my ‘work ethic’ ‘talent’ and ‘energy’ granted me such a lucrative education. An education so funded because individuals born into money presume that a child born into less resources as a result of colonialism, imperialism, slavery, racism and heterosexism, among other forms of oppression, can obtain the same level of freedom, and autonomy.

  68. octogalore Says:

    Restructure: Thanks for the response.

    I like the new title better. I could be picky and argue that it suggests POC who disagree are irrational, but as I think ultra-liberal economic policy is irrational, that would be hypocritical of me.

    I am OK with a progressive income tax, just not highly progressive. eg, I could live with the Bush tax cuts going away. Anything further, eg a health care surtax or a more punitive social securities tax cap, would push the top total tax rate to over 50% and in some cases 60% plus. At that level, I think you’d see entrepreneurs folding their tents and jobs vanishing. I’d be OK getting rid of loopholes and also increasing wealth-related taxes, such as the death tax — which is why I’d call myself economically moderate rather than conservative. There’s only one Democratic nominee I’ve felt was too far left economically to vote for.

  69. Jim Pivonka Says:

    This is why libertarianism in the US from its inception has, in its public face, been funded by oil money. The Koch family virtually bought out the libertarian francise roughly 30 years ago, but it was a main part of Texas & Oklahoma (& Mellon) propaganda activities before that.

    Libertaianism, in the US, considers corporations to be persons! It is, in fact, one of the strong arms of US Corporatarianism. It is, and has always been, used by propagandists in the US to defend corporate against both individual and public interests.

    Please review carefully the history of funding of famously “libertarian” sci fi and si fan publishers, including magazine publisher from the 30’s forward. Look at the second marriages of (at least one) popular sci fi author for links to oil money.

  70. Jay Fraz Says:

    WOW! These libertardian comments are stupid.

  71. Restructure! Says:

    Angel H.,

    That should probably be “the concept of BET” instead of BET.

    #3 is based on “Why can’t we have a White History Month?” and #4 is based on “Why can’t we have WET?”

  72. davboz Says:

    Ya know,…People such as Restructure are not going to be distracted one bit from their neurotic obsession. The manner in which they will endlessly respond becomes more apparently disgusting the longer you engage them. What else can you say about, or to, them but just to, “Shut the hell up! The “F” too.”
    And walk (or click) away.
    P.S.~ F*c*i*g idiots!

  73. jack mack Says:

    that is the reason that white women that know one wants other then blacks. should nont have babbys.

  74. White people do not understand PoC’s existential angst. « Restructure! Says:

    [...] roots” stereotype on her life. (She also recommends my “takedown” of libertarianism, and wrote some great guest posts at [...]

  75. ononehand Says:

    Great post. I have always agreed that libertarian would work if every person had exactly equal freedom of choice, but in the real world some people have far more choices than others, and this is a function of PRIVILEGE. Privilege exists within government but also completely outside government.

    Your opportunities are determined by your environment; your parents’ wealth, the lack or presence of trauma in your life, good health, your appearance and the way people react to your appearance, and the way people identify you and react to your imposed identity.

    If a black person truly “owned her own life” she would have the ability to decide if she wanted to be seen as black or not. She doesn’t have that choice, and will always be judged and interpreted racially. Therefore libertarianism would only work in a world without privilege. It would only work in a world where people could choose their skin color or abillity.

    I don’t think ancestry even matters, because racism is ONGOING and even libertarians participate in it. And direct inheritance is ongoing.

    Truthfully, libertarianism would only work in a world where inheritance was abolished and parents were required by law to spend the same amount as every other parent on each child’s upbringing and education, where gifts were illegal (because they are not earned), and where the state gave everyone totally equal footing and then allowed them to compete equally to earn the most merit and provide the most value to the economy, which would make them rich.

    Ironically, this “libertarian” paradise looks like a Brave New World that most people would consider communist.

    I am of the firm belief that, if it weren’t for privilege, no one would be out there arguing libertarianism to be any better than the system we already have.

  76. ononehand Says:

    I would also say that, while I agree that the past does matter, it presents itself with too many complex situations and caveats to really win the argument.

    Yes, all of North America was stolen from Native Americans and if it hadn’t been then most other races of people wouldn’t even be living here to call themselves libertarian. But you just get a lot of arguments like “I’M WHITE BUT MY ANCESTORS CAME HERE IN 1920 SO I DID NOT BENEFIT FROM SLAVERY,” or “BARACK OBAMA’S FATHER CAME FROM KENYA AND WASN’T DESCENDED FROM SLAVES” in order to argue that white privilege doesn’t exist. You have to hang onto someone’s attention for a long time to explain your way through those complexities and quite frankly most privileged white people just don’t have the attention span.

    I place most of the emphasis on present-day racism, classism and prejudice because I think it matters a lot and it even probably has a more direct impact on the success of PoC who are alive today. And there is SUCH good research and information on present-day racism, and it’s the kind of racism we can actually work on eliminating. I’m open to arguments suggesting otherwise but I do think we should focus on that.

  77. My Choice Is Not Your Choice, But That Doesn’t Make It Wrong « What If Says:

    [...] most people these days call “libertarian” (which, as a full-blown political philosophy, I think is utter crap). And at the very same time, I am much more willing than your average libertarian to acknowledge [...]

  78. Meta-Restructure: Top Five Most “Interesting” Posts + Delurking « Restructure! Says:

    [...] Libertarianism is rational for rich white people only. (July 14, 2009) [...]

  79. dayita Says:

    Well after the meta-post, I’ve come and read the blog entry and the thread, and I have to wonder how it is that *everyone* has missed the point of the video. That video is neither normative, nor descriptive in its text. It is definitional. It is a set of postulates which are intended to be applied to real social issues – many of which have been brought up in the ensuing discussion.

    The problems associated with the history of property, and the questions of privilege arising from that history are immense. And the potential for committing future evil in the name of fixing past evil is equally large. I have been thinking about these things for decades, and I still don’t see that there is any way to a solution which is equitable for all – barring an inner moral transformation, which *by definition* cannot be imposed by law. I guess we will just have to be satisfied with a vigorous debate.

    The *real* problem with Libertarian thought is that they don’t have a good response to the fact that *any* government does violence to those who dissent with its policies. It is an excellent theory of individual rights, but absolutely terrible for understanding social organization.

    On a larger scale, the disenfranchisement of minorities is one of the greatest costs of the evolved two-party system in Amerika, especially when coupled with the “one-man-one-vote” and “winner-takes-all” principles enshrined in current practice. Schemes like preference voting and proportional representation open up a much more nuanced field for debate. But nuanced debate is not much favored in politics anywhere, and much less so in the USA.

  80. Flewellyn Says:

    Great post.

    And the bloviating, pompous comments from Rich and Robyn are wonderful examples of why Seth Finkelstein remains correct: Libertarianism Makes You Stupid.

  81. Ignostic Morgan Says:

    Flewellyn: faith doth that to people!

  82. reporterbobjohnson Says:

    A lot of this is simply not factual. Libertarians have been at the forefront of working for e.g. restoring what is due to Native Peoples. For info on Libertarian activities see http://www.Libertarian-International.org

  83. Restructure! Says:

    reporterbobjohnson,

    Can you give specific examples where Libertarians advocate for reparations for Native and black people?

  84. John Says:

    I’m Irish. In the 1600s, my family was owned by English plantation owners. My ancestors suffered many of the hardships that the Africans during the 1800s suffered. Many Irish families suffered the same. The difference between us and them is that we complain a heck of a lot less, and realize that the past is the past, and punishing people today for what they had no control over hundreds of years ago is complete stupidity. Now I don’t know what race you are Restructure. If you are black, get over it, what happened in the past shouldn’t affect how you live today. You don’t see Irishmen looking for reparations; that would be a low blow to our integrity. If you are white, swallow your white guilt that the liberals of this country have forced you to believe.


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