Some prominent pinheads have recently suggested racial reparations. I think it’s a hard sell, unlikely to happen – but I haven’t seen much talk of the likely consequences, probably because our public intellectuals have no idea what those consequences would be. They just don’t know.

But I do.

One can make a close analogy with the results of that land lottery in Georgia back in 1832, and with the outcomes in families that won the lottery in Scandinavia. David Cesarini’s work strongly suggests that reparations would have no effect on infant health, drug consumption, or scholastic performance. The recipients would be no more literate, their occupational status no higher. There would be economies of scale: because of the size of the pot, swarms of the world’s most skillful and voracious grifters and con-men (Goldman Sachs) would immediately descend upon the black community and begin to extract the winnings, somewhat more rapidly than would have happened to a single individual receiving the same sum. I’m not sure whether more of the capital would simply be wasted or end up in the Cayman islands ( economically preferable).

It might only cost a couple of trillion dollars. A lot like Iraq – but way funnier!

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72 Responses to Reparations

  1. Jim says:

    If one compares the economic situation of a typical African American in the US today with what that situation would likely be if they had remained in Africa and proposes to compensate them for the difference then reparations would be negative.

    • Dale says:

      I would like to see the median income figures for different national populations of the overall recently-from-Africa population. For nations with a significant number, I’d bet the US has one of the most prosperous populations.

  2. Bob says:

    It’s really mainly been one guy – Ta-Nehisi Coates – who’s been pushing the reparations thing. He’s not intelligent, and he’s a terrible writer, but for some reason he was hired to write for The Atlantic and has been heavily promoted in the liberal mainstream media. From his position at The Atlantic he’s been writing articles in favor of reparations.

    • Coates really is awfully dim even by racial-token standards. He admits he reads superhero comics instead of books, and in one memorable exchange he unabashedly stated he had never heard of St. Augustine Admittedly Augustine’s books are very boring compared to reading about the adventures of men in colorful skin tight costumes.)

      As bad as Coates is, the patronizing enthusiasm his white liberal readers have for him is even worse. One of the worst offenders was AO Scott, who described Coates’ autobiography as “essential, like water or air.” David Brooks’ article was downright kinky (he scolds me, slaps me, fills my ears). Fortunately Coates appears to have found his true bliss in writing for the superhero comic book “Black Panther.”

      It’s especially pathetic when you remember The Atlantic was once the pinnacle of American liberal intellectualism. It’s a long way down from Emerson, Longfellow, and Twain to Marvel Comics.

    • Patrick Boyle says:

      I have resolved to read more about blacks and black issues. I ordered Coates’ latest book but I am stuck reading another book called ‘The Fate of Africa’ a very large but even handed history of the de-colonization of Africa.

      The history of Africa does not lend hope to any who have some social engineering scheme to solve the problem of negroes. In many ways, although restrained by the Constitution, Obama acts like the typical new black African leader who is suddenly raised to power. They are impatient with democratic institutions and try to acquire rule by fiat, they are Muslim or sympathetic to Islam, and they spend promiscuously on ambitious but frivolous public projects.

      But at least he hasn’t fed his political opponents to the crocodiles – common practice in African politics.

    • Chip Smith says:

      Do you really think Coates is a bad writer? Except for when he lets postmodern verbiage get the better of him, I think he’s a pretty engaging stylist. In fact, I think that’s largely what’s carried him so far out of his depth. I’m actually surprised by the dearth of black intellectuals worth reading these days.

      As for reparations, just do it and be done with it. A fun experiment.

      • dearieme says:

        I suggest a randomised trial: half the Blacks get the loot, half don’t. That’d be much more fun, and save half the money.

      • Bob says:

        He is a bad writer. His style is stilted and awkward, and he constantly misuses words and idioms. It’s not just that his arguments are bad and make no sense. Basic clauses and sentences frequently make no sense. He’s not alone in this. Many professional blacks seem to have this habit in speaking and writing of using large words and certain idioms purely for some sort of rhythmic quality that they find appealing, with no consideration or awareness of semantic content. Liberal whites who tolerate and even encourage this sort of thing seem to be either too afraid to say anything, or too captivated by the rhythmic noise a lot of this amounts to being.

        • Many professional blacks seem to have this habit in speaking and writing of using large words and certain idioms purely for some sort of rhythmic quality that they find appealing, with no consideration or awareness of semantic content.

          True, it’s sort of like a mild form of Wernicke’s aphasia, mixed with schizophrenic “clanging.” Jesse Jackson was famous for this. He would come up with rhyming phrases that sounded nice but didn’t quite mean anything.

          • Patrick Boyle says:

            Maybe Jackson was channeling Muhamad Ali. Remember ‘ Float like a butterfly – sting like a bee’. The insect theory of boxing? He would have been better advised to just keep his left up.

          • Bob says:

            Ali had that tendency but his simple metaphors like ‘float like a butterfly, sting like a bee’ weren’t that bad. Incidentally, Ali was illiterate, and that might have actually saved him from encountering and misusing more complex words.

            Also, some sports journalists and biographers claim that Ali’s more sophisticated sounding lines and political pronouncements were actually fed to him by the Black Muslim leadership.

          • Tarl says:

            Nice phrases that mean nothing… hmmmm… hopenchange anyone?

        • Chip Smith says:

          “Professional blacks” is amusing.

          I could be convinced about the rest, but I’ve found TNC to be “a good read” on too many occasions. My sense is that he’s a guy of middling to better talent who got hooked into a role. Cornel West is so much worse. The “Black Power” kids from decades ago were better.

          I’m not afraid of anything, as far as it goes.

        • Harold says:

          Misusing fancy words is a common stereotype of blacks found in books for boys published around 1900. They also like fancy clothes, are not too bright, and are scared of ghosts.

  3. Anonymous says:

    “but I haven’t seen much talk of the likely consequences, probably because our public intellectuals have no idea what those consequences would be.”

    That isn’t necessarily the reason.

  4. Reconciliation says:

    Dr. Cochran,

    I’ve been trying to reconcile the Cesarini study (and some other lottery studies) with the randomized studies discussed in this (admittedly biased in favor of positive findings) systematic review, which suggest larger benefits. The key sections are 4 and 5 and the appendices.

    What do you make of the divergent findings?

    • gcochran9 says:

      I figure the systematic review is bullshit, like most everything else sociologists emit. The behavioral geneticists consistently find that shared family environment, which would certainly include wealth, doesn’t have much effect. If this effect really existed, the Great Depression should have screwed people up mightily, but there’s no sign of any such thing.

      I think that wealth can keep you from starving to death: very useful in that case. it can prevent malnutrition, if that’s in question – which it was in England in 1800 (or even in 1930), but isn’t today.

      But I’ve never seen any sign that, given halfway decent nutrition and ordinary public schools, extra money can buy you extra smarts. And I’ve looked hard.

      • Reconciliation says:

        The studies are mainly by economists, not sociologists. The findings seem implausibly large to me, but I don’t feel comfortable dismissing them without some idea of what is going on.

        • georgesdelatour says:

          The study-of-studies you link to doesn’t try to control for genetic effects. I searched for the words “twin studies”, “genetic” and “hereditary” and drew a blank. There’s a strong possibility that Cooper and Stewart have cause and effect the wrong way round. The Stanford marshmallow experiment may be relevant.

          • JayMan says:

            Here’s a couple ideas for you:

            I don’t trust results from reviews or meta-analyses if there is no funnel plot. Publication bias is a mofo.
            It’s quite easy to find short-term effects. Long-term effects, not so much.
            It’s not that hard to get a result you want if you try hard enough. In interventions, a little selective attrition can be all you need to push the results in favor of your treatment.

            At the end of the day, I stick with behavior genetics, which consistently finds a zero shared environment impact for anything of importance. And also consider the Great Depression as Dr. Cochran mentioned.

        • Reconciliation says:

          Actually, reading the Cesarini paper they do seem to adequately address these studies. They are underpowered, smaller samples, with p-hacking over different outcome measures and strong publication bias for positive effects. Also, their effect sizes are a lot larger than the observed correlation of income and outcomes: they predict that people with middle-class incomes would have godly outcomes, and that post-WWII economic growth would have created a paradise already.

          Sections Vd and VI:

      • Patrick Boyle says:

        Of course all sociology is bullshit. A college friend paid me to write his term paper for his sociology class. He wasn’t at all concerned that I had never taken sociology of knew anything at all about it.

        He was right. I got a B+. It’s all just bullshit.

    • Dale says:

      Though it’s difficult to evaluate lottery studies: In many poor cultures (which is where lotteries are popular), there isn’t a tradition of accumulating capital (and often there is no reliable way to preserve or use small amounts of capital). Instead, economic surplus is turned into “consumption” that raises one’s personal status (at least for a short while), which can be used to improve one’s reproductive success. E.g., in a culture where men don’t really support women and their children, the mating opportunities go to the man who can “show a girl a good time”, which usually involves buying her intoxicants and other expensive consumption items. So the real effect of a lottery win may not be improvements of quality-of-life measures but increases in the number of one’s offspring. And that’s what the evolutionary fight is about, after all.

      This could be settled if we had good knowledge about who actually is and isn’t reproducing over the history of our society, but I know of no such data set.

  5. expeedee says:

    I think that the NBA and the NFL can give us some idea of the results we can expect by doling out large amount of reparation money to people who cannot manage their lives let alone their finances.

  6. jamesd127 says:

    To determine whether children are better off as a result of money, or better off as a result of factors that also cause money, there is only one study that can yield meaningful results: Lottery winners! As compared to people who play the lottery similarly without success.

    Any study that looks at a different case will get whatever result the authors want to get.

    In a politicized topic, the standard procedure for getting whatever result desired is to take a body of data that is useless for determining the truth in dispute, and then “analyze” it by statistical methods too sophisticated for anyone to tell what the numbers mean, if anything, then announce that the resulting numbers prove your desired result.

  7. pam32 says:

    Revenue generated by African American owned businesses $71,200,000,000
    Annual spending power for African Americans $1.2 Trillion

  8. teageegeepea says:

    Your mention of Sweden reminded me of the recent critiques of Greg Clark, arguing that inherited wealth matters even in that relatively egalitarian country. Of course, most of these economic studies focus on economic well-being (which was also improved for the middle and upper income recipients of the Georgia Land Lottery), and there’s enough demand for that even if it doesn’t come with “smarts”.

  9. Tim says:

    You’ve mentioned the 1832 Georgia land lottery before. What study are you looking at? I’m not sure how helpful it is to look at the winners’ descendants in 1880. There were a couple of events between those two dates that pedants refer to as the Civil War and Reconstruction. Massive losses of wealth and status. As a friend points out, it’s like studying French nobles between 1780 and 1800, or Russian aristocrats between 1900 and 1930, or German Jews in the first half of the twentieth century. See, economic success is negatively correlated with inherited advantages!

    • gcochran9 says:

      ” it’s like studying French nobles between 1780 and 1800, or Russian aristocrats between 1900 and 1930, or German Jews in the first half of the twentieth century”

      No, it’s not. That’s a stupid comparison. There were no guillotines, no mass executions, no expulsions, no death camps, no redistribution of land in the South.

      • John Sanders says:

        On the contrary, loss of plantation and farm land by proprietors because of the depredations of Federal military forces, persecution by Federal civil authorities, and economic ruination caused by the War and subsequent social engineering by the victors resulted in much land “redistribution” in the South.

        • gcochran9 says:

          It’s pretty hard to make the land go away, and there wasn’t any persecution. A lot of men were killed or crippled – that’s true enough – and there was significant property damage. “social engineering” meant freeing the slaves, who usually ended up as sharecroppers. But the South stayed poor for a long time, and most of that can’t really be explained by the War. I guarantee that Germany and Japan were stomped far harder, yet they recovered rapidly.

          • John Sanders says:

            Of course the land didn’t go away, but in many cases its 1860 owners lost it in the course of the War and Reconstruction. So it was “redistributed”. Social engineering meant altering the social and political arrangements of the Southern populace according to Yankee Puritan models, a constant since then. If you think there wasn’t any persecution you should acquaint yourself with the incarceration of Confederate sympathizers, including women, both in seceded states and others such as Kentucky, Maryland and Missouri, suppression or appropriation of newspapers, suppression of voting rights, theft of movable property, etc. Yes, as you elegantly put it, “Germany and Japan were stomped far harder” (recovering with a great deal of U.S. help).

            Reparations would have all the consequences you point out, and more.

            • gcochran9 says:

              ‘Social engineering’ meant ending slavery – call a spade a spade. As for the way in which the Union government put down the Rebellion, it was pretty mild. It’s hard to think of a central government that pursued a milder policy in suppressing a rebellion. For example, how many prominent Southerners were punished for all the trouble they’d caused ? Two? The Army of the Potomac once had a short-term truce with Lee’s army so that the Confederates could send baby presents across the lines.

              If war is too hard for you, don’t start it.

              As for all the help that we gave Germany and Japan in recovering – where do people get this silly notion? We gave lots more money to England and France than Germany. We gave almost as much to Holland as Germany. While we charged Germany for occupation costs, and then there were war reparations… That, and Germany had lost a significant fraction of its adult men in WWII, while the UK did not. And still West Germany’s per-capita GDP had passed Great Britain’s by 1960. which goes to show — something.

  10. Light Night says:

    Two things:

    We already have racial reparations, and have for the last fifty years.
    Goldman Sachs & Co. already financially predates the ill-gotten racial reparations right out of them through credit card debt and payday loans (and probably other financial shenanigans).

    But presumably you know this already.

  11. Sean says:

    The net cost depends on the cost of what benefits of their race (affirmative action preferences ect) African Americans currently enjoy, but would agree to give up in perpetuity for themselves and their progeny in return for a one off reparation entitlement. The future US population, being majority not white and relatively recent immigrants, will surely be far less likely to agree to pay reparations to blacks, so US blacks may agree to a relatively modest payment as their bargaining position is going to weaken..

    • Wilbur Hassenfus says:

      If “reparations” under that name happen, they won’t be contingent on anything, and they won’t settle any claims. That would screw up the optics. Any “negotiations” (with who?!) will be a charade.

      This isn’t like buying a house. It’s a gang of grifters pretending to negotiate with themselves about how to divvy up our money. Like governments funding quangos to lobby the government to do stuff nobody but the government really wants.

      Recently at the University of Southern Maine, a tiny little Black Lives chapter appeared. The first anybody heard of it was an article in the Portland Press Herald about the president of USM announcing that their list of demands, by a wild coincidence, happened to be exactly what he wanted to do anyway. Sadly, some silly legal formalities got in the way of one or two items (the speech code, for example), but the rest was all set, now that they’d satisfied the formality of an overwhelming mass movement (eight or a dozen kids out of maybe 10,000) marching ceaselessly in the streets, Demanding Change (ok, maybe just agreeing to the list of demands the administration told them to make).

      Seems unfair to the kids: they thought they could hold struggle sessions and get some press coverage for themselves, but the admin ran the whole thing.

      Seems some laid-off admin chick got rehired to wave the baton over this nonsense, probably for six figures. In fact, it’s likely the whole episode was the president a) playing the trustees and the state on his budget, and b) getting out in front of the BLM nonsense and neutralizing it (easier in Maine than in less white states, of course).

      That’s what reparations “negotiations” will be: Kabuki. The fix will be in, and the money will be spent… on something. But Shontavious won’t be getting his 40 acres and his mule, because he’s in no position to demand it — and everybody knows he’s just piss it away anyhow. Somebody has to take care of it for him. More likely they’d fund “programs” run by politically connected “community leaders” with 10%, and spend the other 90% on a government agency to administer the whole thing. I bet Coates gets a taste if it happens while he’s still prominent.

      Same old scam, new name. Change is important. Americans are desperate for change. You have to change the name of the scam.

  12. Dale says:

    My suspicion is that “reparations” aren’t intended to be provided as a lump sum payment, but rather as an enormous amount of capital put into a “trust fund” which will be “invested” on behalf of the darker-skinned Americans. Of course, the fund will be “managed” by the darker-skinned public intellectuals of America.

    Assuming this comes to pass, the managers will naturally come to be dominated by the darker-skinned “most skillful and voracious grifters and con-men” of America, with the able assistance in the background of the usual lighter-skinned varieties of the same.

    With a lot of luck, ordinary black people in the US might actually get some of the money before it was all stolen.

    • Jim says:

      Sort of like foreign aid to Africa say to the Congo. Did a lot of good for Mobuto. Not so much for the average Congolese.

    • Dale says:

      Hmmm, though before the dust settles, it might result in a raft of new black American partners at investment banks and other financial firms (due to their success in this enterprise). So I suppose in that way it would be a boost to affirmative action!

  13. ckp says:


    Regarding gay germs, it’s plausible that multiple strains of the pathogen evolved as human populations diverged. In particular, New World Indians might have had a different one than Euros did (if they had one at all). So, when the contact happened, the pathogen could multiply rapidly in a new population without as strong immune response. Is there any evidence of this?

  14. Reparations for slavery were paid in full a long time ago. They were paid in blood.

  15. bob sykes says:

    Yarvin is right. We added to the blood reparations (nowadays reestimated at 750,000 troops and a few million Southern civilians, including a million or so Black slaves) with Johnson’s Great Society. None of it did any good. A Black sharecropper in the Mississippi Delta in 1910 had it better than the bros in the ‘hood in 2016. He supported himself and his family by his own labor. The bros live off welfare and crime. He had an intact family with nearby relatives and inlaws. The bros families are broken. Drugs consisted of alcohol. Violence was contained. Today, young males in the Black underclass commit most of the violent crime, including most gun crime and most inter-racial hate crime. He was poor, but most farm families in the South were poor. He was likely illiterate, but so is the bro. He couldn’t vote or serve on juries, but what benefit is that to anyone?

    Next time, instead of further reparations, do transfer back to Africa.

    • gcochran9 says:

      “a few million Southern civilians, including a million or so Black slaves)”

      You’re insane.

      • Toddy Cat says:

        Actually, it does look like quite a lot of slaves died after emancipation. The book referenced below looks to be written by some kind of leftist grievance-monger, and his numbers are probably too high, but he may have a point.

        • gcochran9 says:

          Just to be my cranky self, I decided to look at the 1850, 1860, and 1870 Census numbers. Background: the national percentage of blacks had been dropping slowly since the end of the slave trade (1808), Although TFRs weren’t all that different, lots of whites were immigrating, blacks were not. Then again, most of those European immigrants didn’t settle in the South, so the Southern fraction didn’t change as much.

          Black percentage in the South as a function of time:

          1790 35.2%
          1800 35.0
          1810 36.7
          1820 37.2
          1830 37.9
          1840 38.0
          1850 37.3
          1860 36.8
          1870 36.0
          1880 36.0
          1890 33.8

          So there is a slight decrease in the black fraction in the South during the 1860s. There were close to four million slaves: but from the stability of this fraction, it’s obvious that we’re not talking about a million black deaths, because then the fraction would have changed a lot, say to 27%.

          Looking at it state by state, the Alabama fraction went from 44.7% in 1850 to 47.7% in 1870. Arkansas went from 22.7 to 25.2 . Florida went from 46% to 48.8%. Georgia went from 42.4 to 46. Mississippi went from 51.2 to 53.7. North Carolina went from 36.4 to 36.6%. South Carolina went from 58.9 to 58.9 Louisiana went from 50.7 to 50.1…

          Or we could look at numbers rather than percentages. The black population grew ~10% from 1860 to 1870, but it had grown much more rapidly between 1850 and 1860 – so there is room for some demographic trouble. Not anything like a million deaths, though.

          • Toddy Cat says:

            I’d say that you’re probably correct. Maybe a few hundred thousand, which is certainly bad enough, but nothing like a million.

  16. Little spoon says:

    I think Coates claims reparations are necessary because they will never happen. Nothing called reparations is going to be funded even though a number of welfare programs effectively are reparations. He claims blacks must have reparations specifically because they will not happen. Then he can continue to deflect responsibility for the plight of blacks from the black community. Who can blame them? They didn’t get reparations after all and that’s what they need to level the playing field after slavery. As long as blacks don’t get reparations, they can’t be held accountable and whites can instead. Since blacks will never get reparations, they can never be held accountable and that is what Coates wants.

    • Toddy Cat says:

      You’re probably right, but we can’t rule out the possibility that Coates is actually stupid enough to believe his own BS. How Coates got to be a “public intellectual” beats me, I work with more intelligent black people on a daily basis. I still think that it’s because “Ta-Nehesi” (which is pretend Ancient Egyptian, created by his Black Supremacist father) sound “authentic” or something to brainless white liberals. If he was named Charlie Coates, he’d be a clerk at some DMV office.

  17. iffen says:

    TNC doesn’t say anything about a one time payment. He contemplates permanent transfers to blacks. Indefinitely, as in never ending. And no, he doesn’t promise any changed behavior in return.

    • Sean says:

      Offer a single generation reparations entitlement entailing giving up all racial preference benefits for recipients and descendants. Like the lottery jackpot, in which the publicised prize is the value as an annuity before tax, it will work out less than you would think. Almost everyone will bite the hand off the gov and take reparations as an immediate lump sum.

    • Toddy Cat says:

      And this would be different from what we are doing today in what way…

  18. Yudi says:

    From what I have read of reparationists’ arguments (admittedly not much), they don’t want cash payments but rather investments like college scholarships and other things that cannot easily be frittered away, as Dale said. I suppose they quietly know how easily the poor can be parted from what little money they get.

    Anyway, the topic of reparations is such a fantasyland that talking about it is indeed amusing. It will never happen.

  19. BB753 says:

    Reparations for what? Is there any living American today who has had to suffer slavery? I think not! Case dismissed!
    Sometimes I wonder if it’s Jim Crow that Blacks are still sore about. No doubt, many elderly AA citizens lived under Jim Crom just fifty years algo. Still, I don’t see how legal discrimination which happened in the past entitles anybody for reparations. I don’t know if Blacks realize how lucky they are to be US citizens. As opposed to citizens of say Niger.

    • ursiform says:

      “I don’t know if Blacks realize how lucky they are to be US citizens.”

      I think most of them do. Many Blacks are very patriotic. Even many of those who don’t think our society is fair. They love the US but believe it can be better. Like most of us do. You can argue whether policies some group of Blacks support will actually make the country better or not. But even if you are sure you are right and they are wrong that doesn’t mean they don’t feel lucky to be US citizens. Those are two completely different things.

      (Heck, even hopelessly confused people–of any race–can value being US citizens.)

      After all, how many Blacks renounce their citizenship? It must be several zeros behind the decimal point. How many even seek to emigrate? Few.

      So I’d say most Blacks do feel lucky to be US citizens. That’s where the facts point.

      • Toddy Cat says:

        You may be right, but open expressions of American patriotism by American blacks do not seem to be very prominent, at least by most of the so-called “Leaders” and “Spokesmen”. I don’t hear the “Black Lives Matter” people, or Rev. Wright, saying “I love America, but we can do better!” All I ever hear is denunciations of America as a racist hellhole, now and forever. I have no doubt that there are lots of blacks who love America and say so, but somehow, we seldom hear from them. And I’ll bet that TNC isn’t one of them.

        • jark says:

          You’re not going to hear a news report about someone saying “I like living in America”

          • Toddy Cat says:

            Very true, but I don’t hear it much from blacks in person, either, with older black veterans being a notable exception. Maybe I’m just associating with the wrong people.

  20. Glenn Loury just shared this on reparations–which I think is brisk and to the point
    For myself–I have never had a clear answer to the question “ok–who is going to get these reparation–I mean how, exactly, are you going to identify the recipients?” Folk will wriggle and squirm on the hook. They cant say “skin color” and they cant say “genes”, but their consciences tell them that they have to say something…

  21. London Observer says:

    Those who agitate for racial reparations must know full well that they’ll never be paid. It would be a disaster for them if they were. Far more useful to have reparations hovering like a mirage on an ever-receding horizon.

  22. L says:

    There is no merit to racial reparations, but it’s the fact that these victimist have a ready outlet like the Times and Atlantic that annoys me the most.

  23. jef says:

    Black casinos?

  24. Anonymous says:

    We have been paying reparations for years.

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