I have heard about the "reparation" lawsuit filed against some companies for slavery in America. As well meaning as it is, I believe this suit to be unconstitutional, unlawful and immoral.
It is unconstitutional on its face because it asks a court of law for damages for something done that was at one time legal in America. Article I Section 10 of U.S. Constitution:
"No State shall…pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law…"
This suit asks for monetary damages from companies that were conducting a legal business in the United States and profiting from legalized slavery at the time. A judgement against a company performing a legal business in the United States cannot be later made to pay for damages by a law that is made after the fact. In order for the companies to be compelled to pay, the judgement would have to take the form of law and would require the force of law for its payment. Here is the logic of the Constitution, that no nation or people are secure in their lives, liberties and possessions if the very progress of forming "a more perfect union" actuates its demise in the very document designed to protect these properties. Better to have no progress then to suffer the consequential damages. Now, show a case where slavery was established while the Constitution prohibited it and you have a cause of action.
If reparations are awarded to all descendents of those that have suffered as a result of bad law in the United States, there is no end to the payment to be made. Take women's suffrage. Were these poor women not deprived of their rights to effect their own destiny? Can they sue any company that may have benefited from the abuse of women if their vote could have prevented it? How about child labor in the eastern factories? The list goes on and on. To quote the famous Frederic Bastiat of 1850:
"What then, is law? It is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense. Each of us has a natural right -- from God -- to defend his person, his liberty, and his property…If every person has the right to defend -- even by force -- his person, his liberty, and his property, then it follows that a group of men have the right to organize and support a common force to protect these rights constantly."1
"The law has been used to destroy its own objective: It has been applied to annihilating the justice that it was supposed to maintain;… It has converted plunder into a right, in order to protect plunder. And it has converted lawful defense into a crime, in order to punish lawful defense…The law has been perverted by the influence of two entirely different causes: stupid greed and false philanthropy."(4-5)
It appears that reparation for legal slavery prior to 1864 illustrates both influences to pervert the law; greed upon the part of some blacks and all lawyers and false philanthropy on the part of some whites and most all blacks.
"If you exceed this proper limit - if you attempt to make the law religious, fraternal, equalizing, philanthropic, industrial, literary, or artistic -you will then be lost in an uncharted territory, in vagueness and uncertainty, in a forced utopia or, even worse, in a multitude of utopias, each striving to seize the law and impose it upon you."(70)
The success of cases like these would reduce the other citizens of the United States to slaves for plunder. Can someone show me the law that requires one group of slaves to pay another group of slaves? Why can't all the slaves get together and insist that our government start protecting the lives, liberties and possessions of all its citizens!
Ronald F. Avery
Frederic Bastiat, The Law 1850 (Foundation for Economic Education, Irvington-on-Hudson, New York, 1998) p.2