By Robert Wenzel
Matthew J. Cressler, an assistant professor of religious studies at the College of Charleston, is out with an odd essay at Slate.
He argues that despite the fact that most Catholics who immigrated to the United States did so after slavery was abolished, this does not absolve them from the obligation to pay reparations to blacks.
Nor is the fact that Catholics, themselves, were considered outsiders when they arrived here.
You see, according to Cressler, "White Catholics share responsibility for making reparations for racial injustice because we share in its history. We invested in it and profited from it. We continue to invest in it and profit from it. White Catholics must acknowledge our shared history and embrace its consequences."
But if profiting in the current non-slave economy is the yardstick by which reparations should be paid, shouldn't Micahel Jordan and Oprah be forking over most of their wealth to the black community?
Jordan is estimated to be worth over $1 billion according to Forbes. Oprah $3 billion. Surely all of this wealth is the result of profit from an economy that once included slaves.
I'm guessing here but I would venture to say most Catholics aren't in the $1 billion to $3 billion net worth category.
Perhaps Cressler should start working on Oprah and Micahel Jordan, getting them to give up most of their wealth, outside of a used Chevy and a pre-fab, before he starts demanding reparations from hardworking paycheck to paycheck Catholics.
The fact of the matter is that every tribe, race, religious group etc, was persecuted somewhere sometime in the past. Certainly, everyone that immigrated to the United States did so because conditions were better here than from where they came. If you really think about it, Cressler's demand carried out to its logical conclusion would result in an insane shift in all wealth throughout the planet, based almost entirely on acts none of us personally took part in. It would make no one wealthy outside of historians who would get paid to make rulings on who screwed whom in the timeline of history.
Most of us start out with nothing or close to it. The real gift to individuals in any society is respect for private property, the ability to enter into free exchange and the accumulation in an economy of vast amounts of capital, regardless of the specific owners, so that the standard of living climbs for all of us.
This lefty obsession with moving capital around based on the flimsiest of arguments fails to take into consideration that in a free market capital eventually falls into the hands of those who best know how to allocate it. Redistributing capital away from those who know how to allocate it, and have proven so by growing their capital base, is a sure way to push an economy off track and cause a drop in the standard of living for everyone.
Respect for current private property, as it has developed, is the best way to ensure capital flowing most efficiently and resulting in the most prosperous living standards for all. A redistribution of wealth based on who did what to whom, around the globe, 200 years, 500 years and 2,000 years ago would guarantee mayhem and it would take decades, if not centuries, to restore some semblance of economic progress.
Robert Wenzel is Editor & Publisher of EconomicPolicyJournal.com and Target Liberty. He also writes EPJ Daily Alert and is author of The Fed Flunks: My Speech at the New York Federal Reserve Bank. Follow him on twitter:@wenzeleconomics and on LinkedIn.