Reparations & Affirmative Action

Reparations are payments to survivors of atrocities or the group which suffered the atrocities as an acknowledgment of guilt and as an attempt to right at least part of the wrong. They are not a bad idea. Germany paid reparations to individual Jews and also to the newly found state of Israel to atone for the Holocaust. The money to Israel was blood money in the sense that millions of people had to die to get it but Israel accepted it anyway because they needed it at the time and because it proved the basis for what is now a long standing alliance between the two countries, the whole world having recognized the reality of Germany having overcome its past through acts such as this. Now we are in the midst of a new round of talks about reparations to African Americans for slavery. The difference here is that there are no actual survivors to whom to write checks and that the problems of African Americans in current American society are not of the sort that are solved by writing checks, even if lawyers are willing to monetize every damage. How much to a sixth generation survivor? How much to a ghetto crack addict? How much to the institutions, like education and health, that would help alleviate black poverty? Let us parse this question more carefully before arriving at a conclusion.

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