A bill now before the House of Representatives would set up a commission to “examine slavery and discrimination in the colonies and the United States from 1619 to the present and recommend appropriate remedies.” We all know what the euphemistic wording means in plain English: modern-day reparations for the unspeakable evil of Southern slavery. A House panel heard testimony on the bill last month, and President Biden, ever solicitous of his party’s “woke” camp, wants the commission to get going. More recently, White House officials have signaled they’re prepared to “act” on reparations, commission or not. Reparations are a dumb and idiotic concept that will fail.
Not all reparations advocates are radicals. Calls for reparations long predate critical race theory madness. Nevertheless, the case for reparations still fails: It is illogical, unjust, imprudent and counterproductive. Reparations are perhaps most analogous to the law of restitution, in which Party A, who has been unjustly enriched at Party B’s expense, must reimburse B by the amount A benefited. Alternatively, we might think of the contracts-law remedies of compensatory or expectation damages, in which Party A pays Party B enough to either compensate him for his injury or restore him to the place he would have been in but for the breach of contract. But there’s a problem: In the context of modern reparations for antebellum slavery, who exactly is A, and who is B?