We’ve been here before haven’t we?

Britain is being sued with France and the Netherlands by 14 Caribbean countries which are demanding what could be hundreds of billions of pounds in reparations for slavery.

The compensation for a tort is to put people back into the position they would have been before the wrong committed.

In what manner is the Caribbean worse off than West Africa?

19 thoughts on “We’ve been here before haven’t we?”

  1. So Much For Subtlety

    I don’t know, but if we do pay them, we should throw in a free one way air ticket and demand the islands back.

    Then we can settle them with our Neds and they would not be lost to Western civilisation. They might, even, look like New Zealand rather than Ghana.

    And of course if Britain is found guilty, Jewish people are going to have to stop complaining about being accused of killing Christ.

  2. But as you say, Tim, slavery was bad for the original slaves but black Americans and Brits (and to a lesser extent Caribbeans) are way better off thanks to the suffering of their ancestors. Like most of us. Ask Thomas Sowell.

  3. This could turn out to be quite a bonanza for lawyers. The Catholic Church could sue for lost property during the Reformation. Protestants could sue for the Counter Reformation. The Muslims could sue for the Reconquista of Spain. Spaniards could sue for the Conquista. Cats could sue dog owners for centuries of being chased up trees…

    Anyway, there’s an easy solution that would satisfy the rules of justice without penalising people who had nothing to do with slavery.

    Parliament should pass a law requiring all slave owners to pay restitution to all freed slaves.

  4. @Interested
    And be paid off in D-Day invasion souvenirs? Think big. Bring a joint action with the Normans against Rome.

  5. Dearieme – it was God who expelled them, so we’d have to sue the Almighty. I think we got the better of that deal though, Eden sounds boring.

  6. I’m not sure you’re right on tort damages.

    Say you’re self-employed. I punch you in the face. You lose two weeks earnings. BUT in the hospital waiting room, you meet the Duke of Westminster. He feels sorry for you. He offers you a highly paid job managing his properties. You go on to earn far more than you ever would in your previous career. You would never have got the job without that meeting.

    You’re better off than if I’d left you alone. But I’m pretty sure you can still sue me and be awarded damages. You *might* not get the two weeks loss of earnings. You’d get your pain and suffering damages at the least.

    Now if your children tried to sue my children, they might face difficulties, not least with limitation. That I accept.

    PS the example of punching you is not out of any personal animus. I chose it because the act of enslaving is not one that causes purely economic loss, like, say, negligent tax advice.

  7. @ Luke,

    interesting point, don’t know whether you’re right and will be interested to see it argued out. But is it relevant? The people suing for damages now are presumably claiming that they are economically disadvantaged now (since they themselves weren’t beaten, tortured, etc) by having been displaced.* So, to take your example, wouldn’t it be more akin to your son, living in his inherited Westminster property, sueing Tim’s son for economic damages because he was theoretically happier living in, say, Lewisham?

    *I mean I’m assuming they are making a case of this sort. Otherwise it would just be opportunitistic money-grubbing, wouldn’t it?

  8. Sam, I am a literal minded lawyer. I was just looking at the narrow point of whether a court would mechanically balance (a) the negative and entirely foreseeable outcomes of a deliberate tort against (b) the (accidental and unforeseeable) beneficial outcomes. Just imagine yourself in front of a very crusty judge: “Yes, m’lud, I did punch Mr Worstall, deliberately and without provocation, but he met a rich bloke at the hospital..”

    I agree it’s not really relevant where we are talking about wrongs perpetrated generations ago. There are cases where someone’s children/estate can sue a tortfeasor. But being literal minded again, there’s limitation issues.

    I suspect that Leigh Day (claimants’ lawyers) have thought of something a bit better than a simple tort claim. The fun thing is that a judgment from one European country is generally enforceable in another. What if, say, Ireland was prepared to accept the case?

  9. Shouldn’t it be the Caribs who sue?

    But the Mail’s story is its usual rubbish. It starts off saying Britain is being sued, and ends up saying Caricom has no immediate plans to sue anyone.

  10. Paul B, I agree about the Caribs. The difficulty is that the reason they have a good case is that there are none left to sue. A bit like Patagonians. I have met one of the two people left descended from the original inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego (or that’s what his colleague said).

    Possiby West Africans have a case. Hard to see that Congo has benefited.

  11. A better analogy would be that your great great great great grandfather punched my great great great great grandfather leading to him being better off and passing his improved inheritance down the line to me, and then I’m suing you.

  12. This is about compensation, of the monetary variety, for the ringleaders of this shakedown attempt.

    Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have it down to an art – both these men of the cloth have mysteriously, and quite coincidentally, become very wealthy fighting injustice. Odd isn’t it?

  13. I agree with Luke. Leigh Day won’t be running this as a common or garden tort.

    Assuming we are indeed defendants, or end up as such, I wonder if the Africans who sold other Africans to us might be joined as defendants.

    Everyone has an angle. Maybe it’s about time pasty white men worked out what theirs (ours) is. All we have to do is lose our sense of shame.

  14. Eventually some public functionary will steal about £43m from us (the taxpayer) and give it to them to stop him being bothered by it all, and they will wander off to shake down the next bunch of saps.

    Also, as we abished the Slave Trade and expended blood and treasure to enforce it we should sue them for the costs incurred by the Royal Navy, including the incalculable costs of loss of loved ones and their descendants. By my rough back of an envelope calculation, they owe us precisely what we owe them, whatever that is.

  15. Can we counter-sue them for the costs of using the Royal Navy to suppress the trade? Including opportunity costs etc etc?

    No?

    Thought not.

    These things only work one way, don’t they.

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