Pseudo-Democracy, Reparations, and Actual Democracy

It is hardly a coincidence that the Declaration of Independence, Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, and Johann Friedrich Blumenbach’s On the Natural Variety of Mankind were all published within a year of one another, for each supports a necessary aspect of a larger, integrated project. Not only was the rationale for seizing political power (provided by the Declaration) supported by Smith’s popular text (which justified rule by the wealthy business class). Because this wealth and power was contingent on slavery, and territories seized by conquest, Blumenbach’s theory that the “Caucasian race” (a designation he coined, by the way) was the supreme race was also instrumental in justifying and reinforcing the new political economic order.

Prior to Blumenbach, the Swedish scholar Carl Linnaeus’ theory that there were four geographically defined races provided the accepted taxonomical understanding of human diversity. Among his innovations, Blumenbach not only added a fifth race, he arranged the five in an hierarchy, placing the “Caucasian” at the top. And even though this pseudo-scientific theory has been debunked 24repeatedly over the years, by such mainstream sources as PBS no less, the superstition of racial superiority, inferiority, and genetics continues to influence thought. This, of course, is not to say that a person of African origin, for instance, and a person of European origin have no genetic differences. However, not only are there often greater genetic variations within a so-called race than between people said to belong to different races, what counts as a racial trait or characteristic is completely arbitrary. Indeed, racial classifications changed repeatedly historically according to the need to rationalize political and economic exploitation. Consequently, while there is no such thing as race in an anthropological sense, the concept of race does have a sociological meaning involving socially constructed identities and differences. In addition to Africans and Asians, for instance, the Irish were classified by the British as a different race in order to justify maintaining Ireland as a colony. And, in the 19th century, even the poor (that heterogeneous class) were regarded as a distinct race in the US – as were Italians, and others, who “became white” after World War II.

As such, it is not only the case that poverty and race, like race and wealth, cannot be easily disentangled. This entanglement, and the relations of domination it implies, demonstrates that poverty is, in general, not just a condition marked by the absence of economic power. Poverty refers to a lack – or, more accurately, to a deprivation – of economic and political power. Visible in high rates of incarceration, and epidemic levels of preventable diseases, among other socially produced injuries, in it purest form this weakness manifests as the slave. In light of this, it is no coincidence that the term injury is not just etymologically related but conceptually related to the notion of injustice. And justice, if it means anything at all, requires that the ongoing injuries of poverty be repaired. But how is a society to repair such injuries? What must be accomplished in order to correct the deeply entrenched and entangled injustices of the present social situation? What type of repairs, or reparations, must be made?

The concept of reparations, of course, requires clarification. In certain respects the concept overlaps with the equitable notion of restitution – according to which, if justice is to be effectuated, a party injured or harmed by another must be made whole (repaired) by the injurer. As Ta-Nehisi Coates has so eloquently argued, there is no question that the African American community has been monumentally harmed by the political and economic institutions of the United States. In addition to more recent forms of racial discrimination (and its obverse, racial privilege) such as redlining and blockbusting, few industries have not benefited, directly or indirectly, from racism. From insurance companies (such as Aetna) who profited enormously from the institution of slavery, to industrial and agricultural companies, not to mention banks, finance, and real estate interests, tremendous fortunes were made – and, importantly, continue to be enjoyed – from the systemic abuse and exploitation of millions of people. Not only did slaves build the White House, as Michelle Obama reminded us earlier this week; the labor of those slaves continues to reverberate in the walls and halls of the White House, and other structures, in the form of value (monetary, and otherwise). Derived from an injustice, this type of enrichment is articulated in the law by the doctrine of unjust enrichment.

Based on the ancient Roman legal maxim nemo locupletari potest aliena iactura, the doctrine of unjust enrichment holds that when one is enriched at another’s expense a duty arises to rectify this by disbursing the unjustly acquired enrichment. To take a standard example, if X trespasses over Y’s property every day, and saves a hundred dollars over the course of a year because of this, X would be unjustly enriched by a hundred dollars. Even if no concrete harm is suffered by Y, X would have to return a hundred dollars to Y. If we apply the mainstream doctrine of unjust enrichment, then, to the overall social situation, there is no question that the African American community ought to be reimbursed, and not merely for the collective injustice suffered. Those who profited from this suffering (and continue to enjoy the wealth and privilege derived from such suffering) should be dispossessed of their unjustly attained advantage.

In addition to the African American community, though, we must not neglect to consider the fact that the fields their ancestors slaved over were taken by force. Contrary to legally binding treaties, the conquest and appropriation of the continent not only involved the murder of millions, it continues to harm millions of Native Americans. Therefore, according to the doctrine of unjust enrichment, the fortunes derived from exploiting the continent (much of which is also currently accruing interest) ought to also be divested from those unjustly enriched, and returned to those unjustly deprived.

This, however, does not satisfy a radical interpretation of the doctrine of unjust enrichment. In spite of the fact that African Americans and indigenous people have suffered inordinately, and continue to suffer from poverty and other institutional harms as a result of historical wrongs, immigrants from across the world (Ireland, Eastern, Central, and Southern Europe, Western, Central, Southern, and Eastern Asia, and the rest of the Americas, among other places) have suffered generations of exploitation as well. From coal mines, to fields, to countless sweatshops and factories, generations of people have lost limbs, lives, and well-being producing tremendous wealth and power for a small class of people. All of which is to say, when discussing the issue of reparations and social justice, we must address the fact that (according to the doctrine of unjust enrichment, at least) most people in this society – the urban poor, the rural poor, the working class, the shrinking middle class – deserve some form of reparation.

Because money and property wind up spreading poverty far more than wealth, instead of thinking about reparations as the distribution or redistribution of money, or other commodities (which are alienable), we should recognize that actual justice and peace requires a social arrangement that is not regulated by the drive for profit (i.e., actual peace requires non-exploitative social relations). Unlike the racist, sexist, pseudo-democracy of the Founders, an actually democratic society requires not just inalienable rights; the concrete preconditions for the realization of these rights must be inalienable (that is, not for sale), too. So, instead of the distribution of commodities, actual social justice demands that the goal of reparations ought to be the de-commodification of those conditions necessary for an actually just society. Instead of producing conditions (such as housing, nutritious food, water, health care, a healthy environment, education, and other resources and conditions) necessary for the realization of an actually just society in exchange for something else, then, (for profit), these conditions should be produced as ends, for their own sake, unconditionally.

Beyond calls for the demilitarization of the police (not to mention the abolition of the United States’ metastasizing prison system, debt amnesty, an end to endless war, and environmental justice), actual, concrete peace requires the righting of historical wrongs, and reparations. Instead of redistributing property, however, which only rearranges and reproduces injustice, actual justice (and actual democracy, as opposed to pseudo-democracy) demands freedom from the tyranny of property altogether – i.e., its de-commodification.


Originally published on 2016-07-29

About the author: Elliot Sperber is a writer, attorney, and adjunct professor. He lives in New York City and can be reached at elliot.sperber@gmail.com and on twitter @elliot_sperber

Source: Counter Punch

Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!

Donate to Support Us

We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.

democracy-in-australia-and-aborigins

READ MORE!
The Complete History of Monsanto, “The World’s Most Evil Corporation”
First published by Waking Times, posted by Global Research in May 2014, this article provides a historical viewpoint. It is of particular relevance in relation to the Monsanto-Bayer merger. Of all the mega-corps running amok, Monsanto has consistently outperformed its rivals, earning the crown as “most evil corporation on Earth!” Not content to simply rest upon its throne of destruction, it remains focused on newer, more scientifically innovative ways to harm the planet and its people. 1901: The company is founded by John Francis Queeny, a member of the Knights of Malta, a thirty year pharmaceutical veteran married to Olga Mendez Monsanto, for which Monsanto Chemical Works ...
READ MORE
Who Rules America: Globalization and Geopolitics
The prophets and forecasters for the coming year have already set out their global vision ranging from rising economies to catastrophic global wars. I want to argue from a different perspective, focusing on the increasing subdivision of markets, the deepening autonomy of political action from economic development, the greater threat of military interventions and increasing political accommodation.  I believe that we will experience a radical making and remaking of political and economic integration, East and West, within and without nations states.  ‘States Rights’ will re-emerge as an antidote to globalization.  Big countries will compete in regional wars with limited commitments but ...
READ MORE
Reviving the Greater Israel Scheme
Israel’s Maariv newspaper has revealed that the government of the Zionist state is planning to drop a political bombshell in the coming weeks by presenting a bill in the Knesset (parliament) calling for the annexation of land occupied since 1967. It is likely to have the support of the majority of Knesset members. The newspaper added that the right wing has chosen this time for the move ahead of the US presidential election; America, it is believed, will be too preoccupied to care about what is happening in the occupied Palestinian territories. Preliminary talks about a first stage have been held, ...
READ MORE
The Harvesting of Palestine. The Zionist Project Prevails?
With the recent failed bid by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Arab League at the UN security council, to try and end Israelis’ occupation of Palestinian land and to create a Palestinian State within the 1967 borders, it seems an appropriate moment to review the situation for Palestinians since 1915. What is the background to the demonization and brutalization of Palestinians? Most of all, why is the international community was assisting properly and why has it not assisted the Palestinians in protecting or restoring their inalienable rights over decades? Why is their situation so brutally upside-down almost a century after ...
READ MORE
Syria, the United Nations, and the  Slobodan Milosevic Treatment
It’s long been obvious the United Nations is a rubber stamp lapdog of the United States. It set the stage for a decade of sanctions that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and piled sanctions of Libya that resulted in the US and NATO (another lapdog) taking military action that killed around 30,000 Libyans. Now that supposedly august body has signaled it will investigate war crimes in Syria. The Associated Press reports the “resolution adopted by the assembly said the body, known as the ‘International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism,’ would help collect and analyze evidence of violations of human rights and international ...
READ MORE
The Two Most Dangerous Warmongers in Political Office Today
They work in concert to carefully lay the foundations and propaganda for war, for between them they hope to dominate the world with their egocentric madness for power and influence. One is a former real estate developer and the other an expansionist occupier of foreign land. Both have access to nuclear and chemical/biological weapons of mass destruction.  They use the most powerful economic and political sanctions available in today’s US-dominated world to aggressively cripple those nation states they wish to either command or destroy and will unilaterally threaten and intimidate all those who oppose them, with financial, economic and military sanctions. They ...
READ MORE
Trump Bombs Syria and Obliterates His Anti-Interventionist Promises
On the evening of April 6 the U.S. military fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at an airbase in Syria. The bombing was a “response” to the alleged chemical weapons attack by the Assad government, which critics of the American deep state and the US imperial agenda have called a false flag attack. The U.S. assault, which was done without congressional approval, marks a complete reversal of Trump’s campaign trail anti-interventionist claims as well as his condemnation of previous US presidents’—Bush and Obama’s –military actions in countries like Syria and Iraq. As Think Progress reports, this action marks a “dramatic reversal from Trump’s position ...
READ MORE
The Myth of “Aggressive Russia”
Recently I went on a 15 day visit to Russia organized by the Center for Citizen Initiatives. The group visited Moscow, the Crimean peninsula, Krasnodar (southern Russia) and St. Petersburg. In each location we met many locals and heard diverse viewpoints. CCI has a long history promoting friendship and trying to overcome false assumptions between citizens of the USA and Russia. The founder Sharon Tennison has focused on making people-people connections including the business community, Rotary clubs, etc.. This delegation was organized because of concern about escalating international tensions and the danger of a drift toward world threatening military conflict. We ...
READ MORE
Thank You, Edward S. Herman (1925-2017) – Tireless Champion of Peace
Edward S. Herman died on November 11, 2017, at the age of 92. Fortunately, it was a peaceful death for a supremely peaceful man. In all he did, Ed Herman was a tireless champion of peace. Ed Herman could be considered the godfather of antiwar media critique, both because of his own contributions and because of the many writers he encouraged to pursue that work. Thanks to his logical mind and sense of justice, he sharply grasped the crucial role and diverse techniques of media propaganda in promoting war. He immediately saw through lies, including those so insidious that few dare ...
READ MORE
Ukraine: Fascist Dictatorship Masquerading as Democracy
For the first time since WW II, overt fascists hold real power in Europe. Radicalized ultranationalists. Anti-Semites. Hate-mongers. Cold-blooded killers. Whitewashing high crimes. A puppet regime. America’s newest colony. Mocking democratic values. Violating fundamental rule of law principles. Unaccountably. Western leaders won’t explain. Nor will the media. Hard truths are buried. Ukraine’s government usurped power forcibly. Putschist rule has no legitimacy. Especially regimes waging war on their own people. Murdering them in cold blood. Committing horrendous human rights abuses. Tolerating no opposition. Ruling by intimidation. Force-feeding neoliberal harshness on impoverished people. Making life unbearable overall. More on this below. On December 4, Wall Street Journal editors published ...
READ MORE
Accusing Russia: Listening to History
The prophet Cassandra’s curse was that when she told the future, no one listened; history’s curse is that when it tells the past, no one does. The West has no shortage of charges it hurls against Russia, but most of them can be grouped into one of three categories: that Russia intervened in the American elections, that Russia is dragging the world into a new cold war, and that Russia is becoming increasingly aggressive and expansionist. Sometimes when charges are brought against you, the best witness you can call to your defense is history. Election Intervention This history of Russia, America and political ...
READ MORE
Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal and Weapons of Mass Destruction: A Threat to World Peace
This carefully research article by John Steinbach on Israel’s nuclear arsenal was first published by Global Research in March 2002 “Should war break out in the Middle East again,… or should any Arab nation fire missiles against Israel, as the Iraqis did, a nuclear escalation, once unthinkable except as a last resort, would now be a strong probability.” Seymour Hersh(1) “Arabs may have the oil, but we have the matches.” Ariel Sharon(2) With between 200 and 500 thermonuclear weapons and a sophisticated delivery system, Israel has quietly supplanted Britain as the World’s 5th Largest nuclear power, and may currently rival France and China ...
READ MORE
Why the West can Never Defeat or “Forgive” Russia
Historically and intuitively, Russia has fought for the survival of humanity. Of course, things are not always pronounced or defined in such terms. However, already on several occasions, this enormous country has stood up against the most mighty and evil forces that have threatened the very survival of our Planet. During the Second World War, the Soviet people, mainly Russians, sacrificed at least 25 million men, women and children, in the end defeating Nazism. No other country in modern history has undergone more. Right after that victory, Russia, alongside China and later Cuba, embarked on the most awesome and noble project of ...
READ MORE
Why V. Yanukovych Said No to the European Union
Christopher Marsh and I, in our recently published book (Russian Foreign Policy: Interests, Vectors and Sectors), sketch out what we term "Putin's Eurasian dream"—the ambition to create a Eurasian economic and political zone where Moscow sets the overall agenda and is able to hold its own in the global geopolitical competition with the United States, the EU and China—and to have the foundations laid by 2015. A major obstacle to this vision was abruptly removed on Thursday when Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych announced that his country would not sign a landmark partnership agreement with the European Union—which Russia had consistently ...
READ MORE
Here’s Why France Should Be Blamed for the Destruction in Syria
Why is France so interested in Syria? According to the Guardian, France’s policy in Syria has been “more forward than any other Western country”: “[France] was early in calling for President Bashar al-Assad to step down, still insists he must go, and recently joined airstrikes inside Syria against the Islamic State.” France joined the United States in bombing Syrian territory (without a U.N. mandate) even before the United Kingdom did. In 2013, France stood by Obama’s side despite the fact the United Kingdom’s parliament voted not to join Obama’s efforts to “punish” Syrian president Bashar al-Assad for crossing Obama’s imaginary red line. ...
READ MORE
Basic Introduction to the Kosovo Problem
Figure 1. Ethnic Albanian refugees at the Lion airport, April 18, 1999 A French magazine published a couple of photos from the Lion airport on April 18th, 1999, at the time when NATO bombers were pouring their lethal burden over Serbia (and partly over Montenegro), in the course of their “preventing humanitarian catastrophe” at Kosovo. One picture showed the French weaponry ready to be transported to Kosovo, the other presented an ethnic-Albanian family from Kosovo, refugees just arrived to France. The photo deserves well our attention, for it speaks very much indeed; it exposes vividly the very crux of the ...
READ MORE
The Syrian Crisis is Part of a War Waged on Russia by the West
It seems clear now that the West wants to defeat Russia in Syria at all costs. This latest protracted confrontation in the Middle East can be understood as a proxy war of the US and NATO against Putin’s resurgent Russia. But Syria is just one zone of engagement in a much wider war against Russia that has been taking place since Putin started to stand up to the West. The same confrontation also occurs in Ukraine and formerly in Georgia, where Russia successfully halted, albeit temporarily, the Western advance. This amounts to a new Cold War or an undeclared war ...
READ MORE
My Grandfather (Jonas Noreika) wasn’t a Nazi-Fighting War Hero — He was a Brutal Collaborator
Eighteen years ago, my dying mother asked me to continue working on a book about her father, Jonas Noreika, a famous Lithuanian World War II hero who fought the Communists. Once an opera singer, my mother had passionately devoted herself to this mission and had even gotten a PhD in literature to improve her literary skills. As a journalist, I agreed. I had no idea I was embarking on a project that would lead to a personal crisis, Holocaust denial and an official cover-up by the Lithuanian government. Growing up in Chicago’s Marquette Park neighborhood — the neighborhood that had the ...
READ MORE
The U.S. War Crime North Korea won’t Forget
North Korea cheered this month when a man with a knife and a history of violent behavior slashed the face of Mark Lippert, the U.S. ambassador to South Korea. The attack in Seoul was “a knife shower of justice,” North Korea said, praising it as “deserved punishment for warmonger United States.” If that sounds mean-spirited, consider this: For years, North Korea has taught schoolchildren to bayonet effigies of U.S. soldiers. Under its young dictator, Kim Jong Un, the government has suggested it was prepared to nuke Washington, Austin and Southern California. More than 40 years ago, Kim Il Sung, the “Great ...
READ MORE
The U.S. Friendly Dictators
Many of the world’s most repressive dictators have been friends of America. Tyrants, torturers, killers, and sundry dictators and corrupt puppet-presidents have been aided, supported, and rewarded handsomely for their loyalty to US interests. Traditional dictators seize control through force, while constitutional dictators hold office through voting fraud or severely restricted elections, and are frequently puppets and apologists for the military juntas which control the ballot boxes. In any case, none have been democratically elected by the majority of their people in fair and open elections. They are democratic America’s undemocratic allies. They may rise to power through bloody ClA-backed coups ...
READ MORE
The Complete History of Monsanto, “The World’s Most Evil Corporation”
Who Rules America: Globalization and Geopolitics
Reviving the Greater Israel Scheme
The Harvesting of Palestine. The Zionist Project Prevails?
Syria, the United Nations, and the Slobodan Milosevic Treatment
The Two Most Dangerous Warmongers in Political Office Today
Trump Bombs Syria and Obliterates His Anti-Interventionist Promises
The Myth of “Aggressive Russia”
Thank You, Edward S. Herman (1925-2017) – Tireless Champion of Peace
Ukraine: Fascist Dictatorship Masquerading as Democracy
Accusing Russia: Listening to History
Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal and Weapons of Mass Destruction: A Threat to World Peace
Why the West can Never Defeat or “Forgive” Russia
Why V. Yanukovych Said No to the European Union
Here’s Why France Should Be Blamed for the Destruction in Syria
Basic Introduction to the Kosovo Problem
The Syrian Crisis is Part of a War Waged on Russia by the West
My Grandfather (Jonas Noreika) wasn’t a Nazi-Fighting War Hero — He was a Brutal Collaborator
The U.S. War Crime North Korea won’t Forget
The U.S. Friendly Dictators
Policraticus

Written by Policraticus

SHORT LEGAL DISCLAIMER: The website’s owner & editor-in-chief has no official position on any issue published at this website. The views of the authors presented at this website do not necessarily coincide with the opinion of the owner & editor-in-chief of the website. The contents of all material (articles, books, photos, videos…) are of sole responsibility of the authors. The owner & editor-in-chief of this website is not morally, scientifically or legally responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in the contents of all material found on this website. The owner & editor-in-chief of this website is not responsible for the content of external internet sites. No advertising, government or corporate funding for the functioning of this website. The owner & editor-in-chief and authors are not morally, scientifically or legally responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in the text and material found on the website www.global-politics.eu

Website: http://www.global-politics.eu