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March 26, 2007

Reparations For Slavery.

Wat Tyler has some news on how much we all should be paying for the evils of our forefathers in their activity in and support of, the slave trade.

Yes, I know, this is all getting terribly tedious, is it not? Only we Brits are being asked to pay (we were not the only traders of course) and only for the Transatlantic Trade (no Italians are being asked to pay for Pope Gregory's angeli) and so boringly on.

However, Wat does at least give us the numbers claimed:

The figure the campaigners seem to have in mind is £7,500,000,000,000- ie seven and a half thousand billion, or £7.5 trillion. And that's just from Britain.
The Big Claim is that although we 2007 white Brits may not have been responsible for slavery, we are still its beneficiaries. Because it was the mega-profits from slavery that funded the industrial revolution, thereby lifting Britain from agrarian poverty to the affluence we all now take for granted. So there is a very strong case indeed for paying back all those lost earnings.

Let's just carry on as if this is a valid argument, shall we? (My own view is here.)

Good, so because our forefathers made a lot of money out of this then we should compensate those harmed. Which is interesting, because the Royal Navy gos on to make another, further claim:

Overall, the nineteenth-century costs of suppression were bigger than the eighteenth-century profits.

Now isn't that an interesting thought? Indeed, they go further:

It was costing financial capital – Britain did indeed pay heavily in ‘subsidies’ to other European countries to induce them to give up or at least curtail their trade in slaves; somewhat less to numerous chiefs on the African coast for the same purpose; vast sums to its own slave-owners in the West Indies to purchase the freedom of their slaves in 1833; more again to meet the costs of maintaining a squadron on the coast of Africa.  It has been estimated that great as was the wealth generated by the slave trade  in the half century before 1807, the costs of suppressing it added up to a similar sum:¹ “.. by any more reasonable assessment of profits and direct costs, the nineteenth-century costs of suppression were certainly bigger than the eighteenth-century benefits.” Above all, the campaign was costing the lives of British seamen: a sacrifice that might be worth making to put an end to the slave trade, but a sacrifice wasted if the only result was further suffering for many of the trade’s victims.

So what we have here is what I would call a very interesting situation indeed.

We must pay reparations because our forefathers profited from the slave trade. However, our slightly more recent forefathers paid quite heavily to suppress the slave trade. Indeed, they paid more  to suppress it than did the earlier group profit from it. And whom did this expenditure benefit? Clearly, if slavery is a harm, one that must be compensated for, then the benefit accrues to those who were not enslaved, as a result of said actions. So the harms suffered by 19th century Britain (greater, as we note, than those gains accruing to 18th century Britain) should be compensated by payment of reparations from the descendants of West Africans who were not transported.

Which would be, roughly speaking (as roughly speaking as we current Britons are responsible for the 18th century depredations), the current inhabitants of Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria etc. etc.

And as we note, those reparations should be higher than the "Big Claim". Let's call it a round £ 10 trillion shall we? Good. So, when that's handed over then we'll take our cut, the impoverishment we suffer in the present because our forefathers, instead of investing in industry, educating the illiterate or building the productive resources of the nation, instead, decided to spend the gelt sweated from the labours of the nation on suppressing a vile barbarity, and then pass on the £7.5 trillion to the descendants of those who were indeed enslaved.

Good, now we've got that sorted for clearing this all up I'll only charge a very small commission indeed. Dodington Park. Yes, I know that James Dyson thinks he owns it now but it was built on the money made from the slaves of Barbuda, by the Codrington family, but then we all have to make sacrifices for the greater good do we not, and I think that living in a Wyatt house inside Capability Brown gardens would be the correct level of barbaric punishment for me for suggesting this solution.

March 26, 2007 in Your Tax Money at Work | Permalink


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English law states that compensation should reinstate the person harmed to the position they were in before the harm took place. This was demonstrated recently when the UK Government deducted board and lodging charges to a couple of people who were wrongfully imprisoned. The law says that the person must be compensated to the exact position they were in and no more. Let's accept that we must follow the law, then in order to recompense those who suffered from slavery, we must return them to poverty on the west African coast where they will be abused by the traders who sold them to white men.

Posted by: MarkS | Mar 26, 2007 4:30:30 PM

Take it a step further, though. If we owe Africa for the loss of human capital, they surely owe us right back for selling stolen goods.

Posted by: Tom Kratman | Mar 26, 2007 8:02:06 PM

All this talk of apologising is ridiculous. If they want to do something symbolic which would really make a diference I think we should put some black in the Union Jack, if only to piss off the more "integrationally challenged" amongst us.

Posted by: davebones | Mar 26, 2007 8:15:15 PM