Tag: Ta-Nehisi Coates

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Daughter, Soon you will be heading off to your first year at college, a school which has already given you an assignment for summer reading: the non-fiction, epistolary cri de coeur titled Between The World And Me, by author Ta-Nehisi Coates. I gather that the idea is for you and other incoming freshman to have a common […]

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Are Reparations the Answer?


CoatesIn the newest issue of The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates makes an impassioned case for the need for reparations in response to the horrific treatment suffered by African-Americans throughout much of American history. His piece is valuable in making the scope of that suffering vivid, but it finds itself on far weaker grounds when it comes to the question of reparations as a viable remedy. 

In the first place, he misunderstands the historical economics at work. As I note in my new piece for Defining Ideas at the Hoover Institution:

He is right that slave owners before the Civil War and the champions of Jim Crow afterwards exploited the black persons who lived under these regimes. Coates observes: “In 1860, slaves as an asset were worth more than all of America’s manufacturing, all of the railroads, all the productive capacity of the United States put together.” The tempting conclusion is that African Americans today should recoup the wealth that has, Coates argues, worked its way down to the current generation of Americans.