The slavery reparations thing

They’re all talking about it over there. And one of their pieces of evidence is the racial wealth gap. It being entirely true that familial wealth is lower among blacks than whites. The implication being that this is a legacy of that slavery – people haven’t accumulated assets over the 150 years.

This is just a thought. Low income people have fewer assets than higher income people. The marginal propensity to save, the inverse, the marginal propensity to consume. So, if we’ve a group that generally has lower incomes then we’d expect them to have lower wealth.

Seems obvious enough.

We also know that black Americans generally – or on average if you prefer – have lower incomes than whites. Which leads to a thought.

Can we explain the lower household wealth entirely by the income gap? That is, is it all current, not historical, in cause. OK, we can then go on to think about whether the lower incomes are historical in cause but still, bear with me.

Say, and imagine just for clarity, the following. Black income is $25k a year, white $50k. Wealth levels are different. But, is that black wealth level different from that of whites on $25k a year? Again, have to be careful we’re not including whites on $25k a year in dividends and interest income alone but, you grasp the point?

Is there actually any difference in wealth levels once we correct for income?

Do blacks, average income $25k, have the same wealth levels as whites on $25k?

The importance here being that if this is true then it’s the current system that needs to be changed. It’s nothing historical in the sense of capital accumulation over time.

It’s take a much better economist than I to work this out but that is a question I’d love to see the answer to. If we compare the race based wealth distribution to one stripped of race and instead measured as compared to income, does our race effect simply vanish?

My intuition is that it will absolutely and certainly be a part of it. But whether it’s the majority, or even all of it, dunno.

50 thoughts on “The slavery reparations thing”

  1. Presumably, though, those with slave ancestry who have made it good in the US (immediately I think of sports and pop stars but there will of course be more mainstream successes) and who would otherwise still be in their ancestral homeland and earning far less will be required to make a reverse settlement?

  2. Mrs N is partly or Trinidadian descent ( and partly Welsh) .On her father`s side her ancestors were presumably yanked out of West Africa to work the sugar plantations of the West Indies, in appalling dehumanizing circumstances, to the lasting shame of the West and anyone who elevates the market above all else.
    On her mother`s side, however, she can county the Privateer Slaver and Governor of Jamaica. Henry Morgan.

    One lot of ancestors were enslaving the other lot.

    Looking at your ancestral past for meaning is like looking at the stars . The number or souls increases geometrically with each generation and it is possible to see a Plough, a Hunter a Bunny Rabbit or whatever you like out there .
    The picture you see may be a description of how you feel about now , but it could just as easily be an entirely different one.

    So Slavery …appalling but reparation…absurd.

  3. Just another ‘Give us your stuff’ translated from the street to the political & legal domain.

  4. I think it is a terrific idea. If anything can shake the blue collar whites out of their fatal misunderstanding of the modern Democrat party, it is this.

  5. In the UK people regularly conflate ‘black’ and ‘slavery’ as synonymous, yet half the guys I listen to on the box appear to be articulate, educated prosperous types whose parents came to Britain from Africa in the recent past, and the other sort who moved here post-war from the West Indies.

  6. @Newmania ” to the lasting shame of the West.”

    1) Not to mention the Africans who rounded up your wife’s ancestor and flogged him or her to the slave traders. And of course you don’t mention them.
    2) Nah, it’s not lasting. I feel no shame at all for the actions 200+ years ago of people who are almost certainly no relative of mine.

    “and anyone who elevates the market above all else”

    Yeah, that must be right. If you support free markets you must be in favour of slavery. And gladiatorial combat for entertainment while hog-roasting newborn babies to provide arena-side snacks.. FFS.

  7. Off topic.

    One of my hobbies is passing on insults Spud throws at other people (personal or on their professional work) to the individuals concerned. I think this may have contributed to the bust-up he had with the established MMT community, so all good fun.

    David Gauke and HMRC did a great job of demolishing Spud’s 2010 tax gap figures, so I have passed on Spud’s latest offering to the right people.

    I encourage others to take up the same hobby.

  8. Reparations, if any, should be made by those who enslaved people i.e. the African chiefs and the Arab slavers (or their descendants). That would involve a transfer of funds from Africa to the USA and the West Indies.
    I can envisage Trump supporting that proposal.

  9. I’m surprised that anybody with a single ounce of critical faculty could think that this has actually anything to do with slavery.

    Can’t help that old adage springing to mind. “Don’t whine, 80% of people won’t care and the other 20% will think you deserved it ”

    But what’s 200 year to a “forward looking progressive”?

  10. Andrew C – I have made that very point myself in the past, I`m not a hand wringer about it but that doesn`t make a part of the story of which one is proud
    The triangle trade and cash crops that drove slaving do show that markets are amoral and if we are to be fully human they cannot be elevated above all other concerns
    I am also a defender of liberal economics in many circumstances but they can produce appalling results

    There is no need to be so extreme ….

  11. I thought “Looking at your ancestral past for meaning is like looking at the stars.” was a sensible comment actually.

    No one needs feel guilt about other people’s past. The idea of collective guilt is poisonous. For 99% of human history, 99% of people were poor and oppressed.

    @Mark “I’m surprised that anybody with a single ounce of critical faculty could think that this has actually anything to do with slavery.”

    Spot on. It’s a shakedown. Again.

  12. ‘articulate, educated prosperous types whose parents came to Britain from Africa in the recent past’: they are probably descendants of people who enslaved fellow blacks and marched them to the coast to sell to Europeans (or Americans).
    Though maybe they are descendants of the people who enslaved fellow blacks and sold them to Arabs who would castrate the males and march the survivors across the Sahara.

    Or even descendants of both. Just as Worstall and I are probably descendants of Irishmen who raided this island and carried away people as slaves.

    In the Doomsday book about 10% of the population are recorded as slaves. So we are all presumably descended both from slaves and slave masters. C’est la vie.

  13. You can, if you have the patience, research the studies of Michael Lynn of Cornell University, on the arcane subject of restaurant diners tipping their ‘servers’ (waiters and waitresses to us). Rather interestingly, Yanks are bigger tippers than Brits (15% being the norm, whereas we Brits go for 10% or ’round up’ for choice. It turns out that black servers detest black customers, because they don’t tip at all (gross generalisation, probably), and as a result, are likely to park them near the toilets, and generally treat them less well than white patrons. Racism!

    I remember the ancestry-tracing TV programme where Ainsley Herriot was confronted with the fact that he wasn’t just descended from a slave, but also from a slave owner! It came as a shock to him, as he was a big believer in the ‘the whites enslaved and oppressed the blacks’ view of history.

  14. @dearieme… my thoughts persactly.

    In much the same way I don’t hold any of my German friends culpable for locking up Mrs G’s father in Auschwitz during the war, I refuse to give a moments thought to what some long distant relative might or might not have gotten up to in the 17th Century.

  15. A free switch of passport to one issued by the west African country of your choice, plus a one-way ticket there should suffice.

  16. “Tom…”

    Someone may have swapped tiles on your keyboard, m’Lud; or there’s a running joke I’ve missed out on (which is quite normal).

  17. @ Newmania
    The triangle did not drive slaving – the “ancient world” had millions of slaves before the Europeans discovered that America existed. The triangle only made shipping slaves across the Atlantic profitable.
    Markets are amoral, that is not the same as immoral. The morality of human participants, however, can and frequently does affect markets: which make markets preferable to the almost invariably corrupt and immoral substitutes in a command economy.
    You fail to mention the lasting shame of whoever enslaved her ancestors before selling them to a shipper, or the lasting shame of Barbary pirates who raided the English coast, seized free people and sold them as slaves to the Arabs.

  18. ‘in appalling dehumanizing circumstances’

    You don’t know what conditions they lived in. Slaves around here lived in vastly better conditions than the “lucky” ones who got to stay in Africa.

    ‘to the lasting shame of the West’

    Why would we feel shame???

    ‘and anyone who elevates the market above all else’


    ‘We also know that black Americans generally have lower incomes than whites.’

    False comparison. As Andrew C says, comparison shouldn’t be with whites, but blacks still in Africa.

    And, of course, blacks in America have been free to return to Africa for 150 years. They now demand someone pay for their choices.

  19. I’ve worked in the US as a waiter. Yes, blacks tend to be lighter tippers from unscientific observation.

    The AH bit – one of the truly wondrous little nibbles of US history is that we know the name of the first American to own a slave as lifetime chattel slavery. Before that it was as with indentured labourers. The man, that first owner, was a black former slave/indentured labourer himself. Yes, black.

  20. John 77 I chose the word amoral advisedly but markets can drive down standards.
    This is particularly a problem globally. If a Nation`s legals expression of its common culture results in, shall we say high ” workplace safety” but imports are freely available form a country whose regime which does not ( lets say China ). That decision is removed from people by profit.
    It is for this reason that Free Trade and common standards are linked by the European Union, an attempt to capture the benefits of free trade without destroying cultural capital.

    Free markets can deliver consequences no participant in them wants. If big ugly development of your back yard is allowed we all have to do it , but we would all choose it should not be allowed
    The wage driven inflation of the 70s was the creation of fear of inflation . No-one wanted the vicious cycle to escalate but each . behaving rationally created disaster for the whole

    I could go on
    On slavery it encompasses a wide spectrum, some of the men aboard slavers in the early days were still bondsmen themselves.Its easy to confuse a society of duty and hierarchy with industrial carnage at a distance ( although the ancient world had both)
    The Sparta relationship with the Helots has been likened to the Southern slave states of the US ( although even that was much less brutal really )
    I think a case can be made for the particular dreadfulness of African slaving given the time in which it took place but it isn`t simple admittedly

  21. The wage driven inflation of the 70s was the creation of fear of inflation . No-one wanted the vicious cycle to escalate but each . behaving rationally created disaster for the whole

  22. The wage driven inflation of the 70s was the creation of fear of inflation . No-one wanted the vicious cycle to escalate but each . behaving rationally created disaster for the whole

    (I’ll try it on the PC…)

    Inflation isn’t driven by rising wages (or prices). The rises of both are caused by an inflation of the money supply, making the value of each money unit worth less against the value of that being traded.

    You are correct about your extreme point of totally free markets being harmful (they’ve never existed, so no worries) but using government policy as an example of them is silly.

    I could go on…


  23. “The lasting shame of the West”. Forever and ever, only the West, never others. Never even admit there were others.

    It is a club, very selectively chosen by the cynical Left, used to beat down Western society. Treat it with the contempt it deserves.

  24. Dennis the Peasant

    One of my hobbies is passing on insults Spud throws at other people (personal or on their professional work) to the individuals concerned.

    Your cause is noble, sir.

  25. Newmania should be thankful that his missus’s forebears were sold into slavery and not left floating face down in an African river.

  26. Dennis the Peasant

    Actually, the only thing that the “issue” of reparations emerging at this time tells us is that Democrats are beginning to worry about how well Donald Trump is polling with African-Americans.

    Two things going on right now…
    First, Donald Trump is polling very, very well with both African-Americans (and Latinos, for that matter).
    Second, polling has already made it clear the reparations is a losing issue for Democrats… Americans hate the idea, and do so by wide margins.

    Except to see the reparations “issue” fade away as Democrats come to the realization it will not help them in 2020.

  27. So it had nothing to do with OPEC then …funny coincidence don`t you think ?
    Even if it did, that would make the inflation of the 1970s price driven, not wage driven – which was your claim.

    Certainly a cartel can raise prices for increased profits (market power). With a constant money supply that will lead to a contraction in other trading, driving down demand for the cartel’s product and so eventually come to bite the cartel in the arse (lowering the price again). Or, the government(s) can just print more money to pay the price. Plus governments can print more money for general political reasons, which had been happening well before the OPEC shenanigans.


    PCAR has not commented in this thread. If you took the time to read things properly you might learn something useful.

  28. Except to see the reparations “issue” fade away as Democrats come to the realization it will not help them in 2020.

    Normally that would be the case. As it would be with illegal immigration, political correctness, yada yada. But “normal” doesn’t apply to the Democrats (and the left generally) at the moment. Crazy-going-on-more-and-more-batshit-fucking-crazy applies. I don’t think the pragmatic, cynical hypocrites of old can sufficiently restrain the earnest uber-wokes they have spawned.

    It’s hilariously funny but more than a little worryingly unpredictable.

  29. Uhuh…seems to me that the money supply was allowed to expand in response to the OPEC supply shock not visa versa .Your claim that the wage / price spiral had no effect seems bold as well it is notable fact abut wages that the price of Labour does not act like a market driven price at all times .
    At the time the extreme aggression of the Unions was certainly interpreted as inflationary and to the violent price changes of this period as as just a symptom of Money supply only seems simplistic to me .

  30. Thomas Sewell discusses this. His finding are that the gap between Blacks and White in the US was narrowing up to the 1960s when it started to grow apart again. Proponents of Reparations acknowledge this fact attributing it to increased racism. They don’t find any merit in the argument that cultural changes and the promotion of policies that weakened the institution of marriage, or alternatively the increase in welfare had any contribution.

    It’s odd. Middle class westerners eulogise black “gangster” culture because it’s authentic, “striking back at the man”, deserving of praise and then act surprised when young black men want to emulate it. Who wants to do a white collar job – the B.I.G says its uncool man.

  31. @ PJF & Newmania
    The 1974-9 inflation was caused by an increase in the price of coal because Wilson rewarded the coalminers for his election “victory” (although Heath got more votes even excluding the Ulster Unionists). This automatically caused a rise in electricity and rail prices which caused a rise in all other prices except oil and gas. It also (almost inevitably) led to demands for pay rises from all the other labour-backing public sector unions and once those had created further inflation demands from private sector unions *and from the miners* for pay rises to compensate for inflation. The pay rises were almost always to compensate for past inflation rather than anticipated inflation.
    OPEC caused a small percentage of the inflation, something like 1% (I did work it out once)

  32. “Uhuh…seems to me that the money supply was allowed to expand in response to the OPEC supply shock not visa versa .”

    1971 – “I am now a Keynesian in economics” – Richard Nixon

    1973 – OPEC oil crisis

    Western governments were happily running deficit spending all on their jolly tod. The socialist governments of Zimbabwe and Venezuela have ravaged their nations with insane inflationary policies. That wasn’t “market power” doing that.


    Your claim that the wage / price spiral had no effect seems bold…

    I made no such claim. A “wage/price spiral” can only happen if more money is pumped in to sustain it. If you keep pumping money in it will keep spiralling until you’re so poor you can’t afford paper and ink.

  33. @ Newmania
    Glad to see that “amoral” was deliberate as well as correct.
    In a free market I can choose *not* to put that big ugly development in my backyard because the profit I make from it is not sufficient compensation for being spat at in the street/being refused service in the village pub/having my wife shunned at the Women’s Institute/being denounced in the Sunday sermon/add variants to taste. In a command economy I cannot.
    Anyone who thinks that only the free market can produce undesirable side-effects should look at the UK Housing non-market under Labour. Dozens of the tower blocks built in the 60s/70s have had to be demolished because they could not be brought up to (current-day) minimum standards. How many private sector houses/blocks from that era have been demolished for comparable reasons?
    Re: 70s inflation. No, it wasn’t “fear of” it was actual inflation and a lot of us who weren’t members of unions financing the Labour Party got badly squeezed – our inflation-adjusted income went down a lot. And YES, Scargill DID want it to escalate so as to create an underclass of unemployables to be his cannon fodder in his class war – you really should read what the (oh no, I shouldn’t insult pigs) said.
    As to Spartans and Helots – a lot of what we think we know contains mutually incompatible stories.

  34. The Democrats are playing a con game with the blacks. Democrats are urging and feeding black personality disorder, i.e., other people are responsible for their outcomes.

    Blacks are dependent on what whites do. (Strikingly similar to slavery.)

    Reparations is the idea that if whitey gave them some money, blacks would be fine. But, of course, once they have spent the windfall, they will be no better off than before.

    Because only blacks can produce great outcomes for blacks. Democrats can’t do it for them. Blacks are victims only of Democrats cynically supporting black collective personality disorder.

  35. @newmania June 20, 2019 at 1:24 pm

    Cease & desist libelling me, this is the second or third thread you’ve done this on. Apologise too.

  36. “If you support free markets you must be in favour of slavery.”

    Indeed! Nothing says “I support slavery” more than “Every person should be free to associate with whomever they will, and offer whatever they can produce to trade for whatever they need!”

    Fortunately, we have all those people who want us to give up our freedoms and our free markets, and tell us what we can and cannot do with our time and our resources, to save us from slavery!

  37. I’m a free market supporter. We need the rule of law, certainty of contract, freedom, acceptance of the right of people to negotiate the value of their labour, and the view that a dark skinned dude and one who is pale stale male are persons.
    On the last point, how could a free market ideologue possibly work out a price system based on skin colour or origin country? Merit is the only system.
    Newmania has set up a straw man and hasn’t noticed the internal contradiction in his set up.

  38. FYI

    Burgess Owens tells Democrats they should be paying reparations to black Americans
    “I do believe in restitution. Let’s point to the party that was part of slavery, KKK, Jim crow, that has killed over 40% of our black babies, 20 million of them.”

    Burgess Owens seems unaware KKK was & is? a Democrat dominated Clan

    But left and lies, hypocrisy….


    Storm over Tory TV debate: MPs accuse BBC of incompetence for failing to vet guests

    …The storm blew up after it emerged an imam who put Boris Johnson on the spot had allegedly posted anti-Semitic remarks on social media along with inflammatory comments about women and rape. Iman Abdullah Patel was immediately suspended from his mosque along with his role as the deputy headmaster of a primary school while an investigation is carried out. And it was later revealed a solicitor who asked the final question of the debate was hired last year by Labour HQ as a legal assistant and stood as a candidate for the party in a London borough election. Yesterday Aman Thakar was suspended by leading law firm Leigh Day over an alleged tweet about the legacy of Adolf Hitler…

    Leigh Day? Surprised I’m not that he works for them. No doubt virtue signal Suspension, on full pay and promotion once heat dies down.

    More info:

    “…Brexit has exposed a mass of bias in our institutions, from the House of Lords, to the political parties ignoring their election manifesto commitments, to the Electoral Commission and the media. We don’t have to buy the Guardian or the Telegraph but we do have to fund the BBC. This disgracefully biased debate should at least have served as another nail in its coffin.”


  39. I have already paid whatever reparations necessary. My gggrandfather died in the Union Army liberating the South. He left behind a widow and 5 young children who subsequently lost their farm. Besides, Dr. Walter Williams has provided absolution. He speaks for the African American community with at least the same authority as Jesse Jackson et. al.

  40. Rather than comparing the general black population today with the general white population today, wouldn’t the better comparison be to compare the descendents of 1860s dirt-poor subsistance white southern share croppers with the descendents of 1860s dirt-poor subsistance black southern share croppers?

  41. Most here see this racebaiting accelerationist shakedown for what it is, despite the esteemed Mr. Worstall taking the bait, if even for an intellectual exercise. That’s comforting.

    The reason this is an actual Democrat campaign issue despite being electoral poison is a far more interesting question IMHO. The only answer that makes a lick of sense to me is: in a crowded but intensely mediocre Dem field fringe candidates (which somehow describes most of them) need Leftist wedge issues to get traction, or so they think. If one of these reparation types wins the nom I expect the issue to be memory-holed.

    I’m open to more sensible explanations because the very idea of reparations is prima facie absurd and absurdly divisive.

  42. If you want to play their game, jgh.

    The Constitution expressly forbids ex post facto laws. Slavery as it existed in the U.S. was not illegal.

    The idea of the government paying reparations involves 1) The capability of the GOVERNMENT to commit a crime, 2) Creating the statute ex post facto, and 3), Determining who might receive such largesse.

    There’s not a lawyer in America who doesn’t know this. That Democrats support the notion of reparations marks them as corrupt and anti-American.

  43. 5) All of the – alleged – perps are dead.

    6) All of the – alleged – victims are equally dead.

    The federal government is to pay money to random people for something that legally happened over 150 years ago.

    It would be a precedent that could destroy America. Democrats are counting on it.

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