by Lipton Matthews
The pro-reparation lobbyists have failed to create a convincing argument for reparations and it is unlikely that they will be taken seriously internationally. The Economist agrees with me. My new found colleagues Cato and Kavon have written on the very topic previously (here and here) on Right From Yaad and agree with me.
The lobbyists main argument is that chattel slavery, which was practised in the Caribbean, was exploitative and dehumanizing. Therefore, it unlike slavery anywhere else and cannot be compared to such slavery systems as existed in such places as in Ancient Rome and Greece.
However, slavery in Ancient Rome and Greece was multifaceted. In Ancient Rome highly educated slaves existed were treated with dignity and those who were good cooks were greatly respected. On the other hand, a less sophisticated slave with no skills was treated with contempt and their death rates were higher.
This is a bit similar to the slave system which existed in our hemisphere and even closer to home in the Caribbean region, since a house slave had a more amicable relationship with his master than a field slave. Furthermore, under Roman law slaves were considered property, they were subjected to vicious forms of sexual and physical abuse depending on their status and because they had no legal personhood, they were seen as chattel, so chattel slavery was practised by the Romans too.
If a slave killed his master, apart from the offending slave alone being killed, all slaves within the household were also murdered because their lives had no value. Similar actions took place this side of the world.
On the other hand, just like slaves in this part of the world, they were able to purchase their freedom and file complaints against their masters.
Slavery in Rome was quite brutal, so will the descendants of slaves like the British, who suffered under Roman conquest demand reparations? No.
Slavery in ancient Greece was also diverse, with varying degrees of hostility meted out to slaves depending on their rank. For example, Helots were classified as sub-humans, who could be killed for fun, so the view that slaves systems in the ancient world cannot be compared to the institution of slavery in the Caribbean is a myth. Additionally, these lobbyists have failed to analyze the factors which created the conduit for the slave trade.
West African states like Angola were not united, so it was very easy for the Portuguese to exploit ethnic and political tensions. For example, Queen Nzinga Nbandi was never in favour of the slave trade but she was undermined by unscrupulous Africans, who formed commercial links with the Portuguese, the Europeans also had superior technology and African weaponry was not on par. King Agaja of Benin conquered his neighbours to dominate the slave trade.
Throughout history complex societies have seen the need to enslave weaker states, this is just human nature. There is also the belief that the slave trade depleted the African labour force thereby retarding its development, this is nonsense. In the 1990s, Latvia and Estonia were in a deplorable condition, but today economists speak about the Latvia and Estonian miracles. Leadership makes a difference.
People like Idi Amin have played a great role in undermining Africa’s progress. According to Tim Worstall in a recent article about reparations, ”the whole idea seems so absurd once you pursue the logic of it that its probably better to forget the whole matter, isn’t it”. We should focus on creating wealth for our people through productivity and innovation not frivolous matters like reparations.
Lipton Matthews is a first year law student and is unusual in being a Jamaican Conservative Capitalist Teenager. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org