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Reblogged:Moral Opposition to Cash Reparations

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Within a Hot Air blog post about a couple of cash reparations proposals in California comes the following good news, in the form of excerpts from a report on polling by the Los Angeles Times:
The UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll, co-sponsored by The Times, found that 59% of voters oppose cash payments compared with 28% who support the idea. The lack of support for cash reparations was resounding, with more than 4 in 10 voters "strongly" opposed.


In the Berkeley poll, when voters who oppose reparations were asked why, the two main reasons cited most often were that "it's unfair to ask today's taxpayers to pay for wrongs committed in the past," picked by 60% of voters, and "it's not fair to single out one group for reparations when other racial and religious groups have been wronged in the past," chosen by 53%.

Only 19% said their reason was that the proposal would cost the state too much, suggesting that money alone is not the main objection. [bold added]
I grant that neither moral objection is exactly individualistic, but I would bet that that would be because of bad polling questions -- with the top two answers simply being as close as there was to a "right" answer for many participants.

Curious about what Ayn Rand might have said about the subject, I found quite the rebuttal within her 1974 essay, "Moral Inflation," which includes the following:
There is no such thing as a collective guilt. A country may be held responsible for the actions of its government and it may be guilty of an evil (such as starting a war) -- but then it is a public, not a private, matter and the entire country has to bear the burden of paying reparations for it. The notion of random individuals paying for the sins of an entire country, is an unspeakable modern atrocity.

Image by Thure de Thulstrup , via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
This country has no guilt to atone for in regard to its black citizens. Certainly, slavery was an enormous evil. But a country that fought a civil war to abolish slavery, has atoned for it on such a scale that to talk about racial quotas in addition, is grotesque However, it is not for injustices committed by the government that the modern racists are demanding reparations, but for racial prejudice -- i.e., for the personal views of private citizens. How can an individual be held responsible for the views of others, whom he has no power to control, who may be his intellectual enemies, whose views may be the opposite of his own? What can make him responsible for them? The answer we hear is: The fact that his skin is of the same color as theirs. If this is not an obliteration of morality, of intellectual integrity, of individual rights, of the freedom of man's mind (and, incidentally, of the First Amendment), you take it from here; I can't -- it turns my stomach.
It is easy to see how Rand's argument applies, despite (1) the different forms of the reparations -- violating the right to contract via quotas vs. violating property rights via wealth transfers; and (2) the current fashion of pleading "systemic" racism since individual racists are rare and (at least until recently) closeted.

The first paragraph probably would not come as a surprise to anyone who is familiar with Ayn Rand, whom even many opponents would acknowledge as an individualist.

But the second paragraph deserves wide circulation, starting with its acknowledgment of the Civil War as reparation enough, in the only meaning of the term that it can be proper to discuss.

-- CAV

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