We economists, especially those of us who have had some responsibility for educating students, have a lot to answer for. Presumably all the politicians strutting across our television screens did attend some sort of educational institution at one time. Indeed, many attended institutions of so-called higher learning. Yet somehow their economics teachers failed them.
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The salient question should never have been who to blame for blacks’ predicament, but who is able to fix it. If the problem were simply a lack of cash, then the government would be the ideal candidate. But if we learned anything from the explosion of violent crime and single motherhood following welfare expansion in the late 1960s, it was that cash transfers cannot solve a problem that the absence of cash didn’t cause. Herein lies one of the many issues with reparations: it would not address the root causes of black underachievement. Fans of the concept should ask themselves: what will happen the day after reparations are paid, when black students still spend less time on homework than their white peers, blacks are still making poor financial decisions, and two out of every three black kids are still living in single-parent homes? On that day, I’d hope to see progressive scholars acknowledge that they had been asking the wrong question for 50 years. But I would not be shocked to hear them insist that, if only the reparations checks had been a bit larger, black America’s problems would have been solved.
In 1278 the King of England came up with a new plan to raise money and land, as leaders are fond of doing. Certain that historic privileges had been usurped by uppity subjects, King Edward sent royal officers around to prominent individuals demanding by what legal right – quo warranto – they held their honours. However when Edward’s men arrived at the home of one John de Warenne, Earl of Surrey, the ageing aristocrat pulled out his rusty sword and proclaimed: “My ancestors came with William the Bastard, and conquered their lands with the sword, and I will defend them with the sword against anyone wishing to seize them.”