Pseudo-Democracy, Reparations, and Actual Democracy

Hits: 1439

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!
Lithuanians under Police State Attack and the World under Washington’s Attack
According to news reports and to this appeal by Kristoferis Voishka, the pro-American government installed in Lithuania is persecuting Lithuanians who dissent from the anti-Russian propaganda that is driving Washington’s NATO puppets to war with Russia. Unlike their puppet government, Lithuanians understand that war with Russia means that Lithuania on the front line will be utterly destroyed, a result that would not bother Washington in the least, just as Washington is undisturbed when its forces obliterate weddings, funerals, and children’s soccer games. What is Lithuania? To Washington it is a nothing. Kristoferis Voiska runs an alternative Internet news site in LIthuania. Not ...
READ MORE
US Imperialism Wages Permanent Warfare to Prevent its Inevitable Collapse
The US has always been a warfare state. However, the character of US imperialist warfare has changed dramatically. For over two centuries, the US regime’s purpose for war, whether on indigenous peoples, Black people, or nations all over the world, was to expand the productive forces of capitalist exploitation. War preceded the vast profits accumulated from chattel slavery, land grab, and resource extraction in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The foundation of white supremacy and capitalism allowed the US regime to consolidate its expansion despite episodes of periodic crisis. Recent events, alongside a steady fall in the rate of capitalist profit, indicate ...
READ MORE
Kiev Junta War Crimes
A new Foundation for the Study of Democracy (FSD) report is titled “War crimes of the armed forces and security forces of Ukraine: torture of the Donbass region residents.” It provides graphic evidence of horrendous Kiev war crimes Western media ignore. Earlier articles discussed Kiev’s dirty war. It deliberately targeted civilian neighborhoods, schools, hospitals and infrastructure. It used of cluster munitions, white phosphorous and other chemical weapons, as well as cold-blooded murder of hundreds of captives. Most were abducted civilians. They were brutally tortured, murdered and secretly buried. Eyewitnesses exposed the crimes. FSD’s report provides more damning evidence of junta torture, inhumane and degrading treatment. Over 100 former ...
READ MORE
Washington’s War Crimes in Syria
The United States government is guilty of war crimes. This is the stark conclusion reached by the independent international commission of inquiry established by the United Nations in 2011 to investigate human rights violations stemming from the protracted US-backed war for regime change in Syria. The Pentagon’s relentless bombing campaign in and around the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, the so-called “capital” of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), has inflicted a “staggering loss of civilian life,” while forcing over 160,000 civilians to flee their homes, Paulo Pinheiro, chairman of the UN’s commission of inquiry, said on Wednesday. US warplanes ...
READ MORE
The Bush Administration’s Foreign Policy in Kosovo
Destroyed Serbian Orthodox church in Kosovo by local Muslim Albanians after 1999In 2000, when George W. Bush was elected president in a controversial and hotly disputed election, all the experts and pundits predicted that there would be a philosophical sea change in US foreign policy in the Balkans, and in Kosovo in particular. In my 2000 analysis of the election of Bush and US foreign policy in Kosovo, however, I concluded that the George W. Bush Administration represented the same old same old and business as usual. In my viewpoint, absolutely nothing would change in the US foreign policy stance ...
READ MORE
How Palestinians Can Reverse Israel’s Divide and Conquer Tactics
Most veteran observers, including Israeli security authorities and Palestinian leadership, were dumbfounded by recent events in Jerusalem, where tens of thousands of Palestinians mobilized non-violently in response to the Israeli closure of the Old City and placement of metal detectors at the entrance of the Dome of Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque. What was the secret ingredient that made such a mass action take place and be a successful example in Palestinian non-violent resistance to the 50 years of Israeli military occupation? How did it happen so spontaneously, non-violently and with seemingly no leadership?A new report by the group, titled, Relations Between Palestinians Across ...
READ MORE
Top 10 Dirty Secrets of Vatican
Throughout its long history, the Catholic Church has been rocked by scandals ranging from the dissolution of the Knights Templar to Galileo’s trial to Mother Theresa’s questionable donors. Over the course of the 20th century, many more scandals have come to light—no matter how much the Church would like to keep them secret. 10. The Duplessis Orphans In the 1930s and 1940s, a conservative revolution ushered in an era in Quebec now known as “The Great Darkness.” Led by Premier Maurice Duplessis, the period was characterized by unprecedented corruption and repression, much of which involved the Catholic Church. After Duplessis received the ...
READ MORE
Libya: Ten Things about Gaddafi They don’t want You to Know
What do you think of when you hear the name Colonel Gaddafi? Tyrant? Dictator? Terrorist? Well, a national citizen of Libya may disagree but we want you to decide. For 41 years until his demise in October 2011, Muammar Gaddafi did some truly amazing things for his country and repeatedly tried to unite and empower the whole of Africa. So despite what you’ve heard on the radio, seen in the media or on the TV, Gaddafi did some powerful things that are not characteristic of a “vicious dictator” as portrayed by the western media. Here are ten things Gaddafi did for Libya that you may not know about… 1. In Libya a home is ...
READ MORE
Who is Profiting from the Rise of Fascism?
On October 21, 2016 a typical Estonian school witnessed an opening ceremony of the bronze bust of Harald Nugiseks. He was an SS-Oberscharführer (Sergeant) in World War II, who served voluntarily in the 20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the Waffen SS. According to the director of this education institution, the memory of Harald Nugiseks will lead to the increase in feelings of patriotism among students and must increase their willingness to protect their country in case of external aggression. So who is this Nugiseks? – During the Second World War, he was awarded with the second highest military award in the ...
READ MORE
There is no Strategy Behind Trump’s War, Just Brute Force
These are awesome days for headline writers. So many global settings, such an abundance of weapons, such a wealth of choices! On the morning of April 14, the New York Times led with “A Giant U.S. Bomb Strikes ISIS Caves in Afghanistan,” matched by CNN’s “US Drops ‘Mother of All Bombs.’” The Washington Post chose Syria, where “Errant U.S. Strike Kills 18: Victims in Syria Were Allied Forces.” By mid-afternoon that same day, the Associated Press had shifted to the horn of Africa, where the “U.S. Sends Dozens of Troops to Somalia, 1st Time in Decades.” And as the Friday rush hour ...
READ MORE
Iran vs America: History’s Scars
A weakened leader in a powerful country can be a recipe for danger. Donald Trump's encroaching legal troubles might prove just the time for a seriously big international crisis, even a bit of a war. The obvious choice is Iran, and Trump may well have been heading that way even before his latest problems with Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort and potentially special investigator Robert Mueller. Trump may be confident of holding firm to his support base and thus ensuring the loyalty of Republican candidates in the mid-term Congressional elections. But as pressure grows on him, a conflict with Iran – encouraged ...
READ MORE
75 Years of Pearl Harbor Lies
The facts do not support the mythology. The United States government did not need to make Japan a junior partner in imperialism, did not need to fuel an arms race, did not need to support Nazism and fascism (as some of the biggest U.S. corporations did right through the war), did not need to provoke Japan, did not need to join the war in Asia or Europe, and was not surprised by the attack on Pearl Harbor. For support of each of these statements, keep reading. This week I’m testifying at an Iraq Tribunal about the Downing Street Minutes. In U.S. thinking the ...
READ MORE
Is “Jewish Supremacy” a Form of Racism? The Zionist Exception
Today, we hear a lot about White supremacy but very little about Jewish supremacy, as if the former stands for the latter.It is true there are more similarities than differences between Jewish supremacy and White supremacy. Both are based on ethnic/nationalist bias and racism. They are both“historically based, institutionally perpetuated system[s] of exploitation and oppression … a web of interlocking, reinforcing institutions: economic, military, legal, educational, religious, and cultural. As a system, racism affects every aspect of life in a country.”Within Israel and militarily occupied Palestinian lands, Jewish supremacy is sometimes described as White supremacy, as in this headline:“Israel’s White Supremacy Agenda ...
READ MORE
What is Israel’s Project in Argentina?
The Argentinian authorities are wondering about the massive purchase of land in Patagonia by a British billionaire, and the “holidays” that tens of thousands of Israeli soldiers are enjoying on his property.In the 19th century, the British government were undecided as to where they should settle Israel – either in what is now Uganda, in Argentina or in Palestine. In fact, Argentina was at that time controlled by the United Kingdom and, on the initiative of French baron Maurice de Hirsch, had become a land of refuge for Jews who were fleeing the pogroms in central Europe.In the 20th century, ...
READ MORE
Kosovo and Crimea: What’s the Difference?
The only discussion of principle emerging from the debates over Kosovar and Crimean independence is that initiated by Woodrow Wilson towards the end of World War One, about whether national minorities have the right to self-determination. Can a smaller group be compelled to be part of a larger state, or should they be permitted to secede? To what extent do minority rights amount to a freedom to determine one’s own sovereignty? In June 1999 an international military force led by the United States annexed Kosovo, then a province in southern Serbia with a population of perhaps 1.6 million people. Virtually all ...
READ MORE
‘Humanitarian’ Concerns Increase Wars, Benefit only Arms-Producers
Unlike a regular corporation, the corporations that manufacture and sell weapons to their government are virtually 100% dependent upon their government and its military allies, for their own success; their markets are only those governments, not individuals (such as is the case for normal corporations). Consequently, either their government will control them, and those firms won’t have any effective control over their own markets, or else those firms will, themselves, control their government, and thereby effectively control their markets, via the government’s foreign policies — not only via expanding its military alliances (those firms’ foreign markets), but via its designating ...
READ MORE
Obama’s Imperial Presidency
Could Donald Trump already be the worst of all American presidents?  In less than two years his record on the world scene has been frightening enough: U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Accords, scuttling of the Iran nuclear treaty, moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, unjustifiably punitive sanctions against Russia, Iran, and Venezuela, terror bombing of Mosul and other Iraq cities, bombastic threats against friends and enemies alike – not to mention a $54 billion gift to the Pentagon and stepped-up nuclear “modernization”.  Hard to imagine much worse. One article of faith among liberals and the corporate media is that ...
READ MORE
The Lie of the 21st Century: How Mainstream Media “Fake News” Led to the U.S. Invasion of Iraq
The mainstream media (MSM) has declared war on alternative media websites labeling them “Fake News” ever since Hillary Clinton lost the election to Donald Trump. The New York Times editorial board expressed their frustration in an article calling for the censorship of alternative and social media ‘Facebook and the Digital Virus Called Fake News’ which claimed both social media platforms (Facebook and Google) has not been aggressive enough in blocking fake news sites:Most of the fake news stories are produced by scammers looking to make a quick buck. The vast majority of them take far-right positions. But a big part ...
READ MORE
Those Who have Erected the Monument to Bill Clinton Now Flee From the Valley of Tears
Former slogan that has been so thunderously shouted within  pre-election debates, and that was the last glimmer of declarative patriotism, dear both to politicians and football fans, by the development of the situation these days gets quite a different meaning. Kosovo is Serbia sometimes means that the Serbs, if not otherwise, at least in their souls will not give up the holy Serbian land. However, it might sound completely different today.  Columns of Albanians from Kosovo carrying everything they own, leave Kosovo, pushing to catch last buses for a better life, moving towards Subotica, in order to try to reach some ...
READ MORE
Totalitarian Rule in America
Every day signs are looming larger than life as we know it in the wealthiest nation on earth that it’s about to crash and burn, forever changing not for the better. The latest wake-up call arrived in a Guardian article earlier this week. The story features a secret prison not unlike the CIA torture detention centers all over the world whereby the Chicago police hold rounded up US citizens for hours or days at a time for interrogation. The same internationally illegal roundups of suspected “potential terrorists” (which by latest Gestapo America standards can easily be you or me) that the CIA ...
READ MORE
Lithuanians under Police State Attack and the World under Washington’s Attack
US Imperialism Wages Permanent Warfare to Prevent its Inevitable Collapse
Kiev Junta War Crimes
Washington’s War Crimes in Syria
The Bush Administration’s Foreign Policy in Kosovo
How Palestinians Can Reverse Israel’s Divide and Conquer Tactics
Top 10 Dirty Secrets of Vatican
Libya: Ten Things about Gaddafi They don’t want You to Know
Who is Profiting from the Rise of Fascism?
There is no Strategy Behind Trump’s War, Just Brute Force
Iran vs America: History’s Scars
75 Years of Pearl Harbor Lies
Is “Jewish Supremacy” a Form of Racism? The Zionist Exception
What is Israel’s Project in Argentina?
Kosovo and Crimea: What’s the Difference?
‘Humanitarian’ Concerns Increase Wars, Benefit only Arms-Producers
Obama’s Imperial Presidency
The Lie of the 21st Century: How Mainstream Media “Fake News” Led to the U.S. Invasion of Iraq
Those Who have Erected the Monument to Bill Clinton Now Flee From the Valley of Tears
Totalitarian Rule in America
Global-Politics.eu

Written by Global-Politics.eu

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