To understand just how inane and unserious a ‘thinker’ is the person behind the 1619 Project, take a look at this tweet of hers from earlier this afternoon. (HT Phil Magness)
From where does Ms. Hannah-Jones suppose the federal government gets whatever money it spends? Does she not realize that every cent comes from flesh-and-blood people? Likely not. As Phil Magness suggests on his Facebook page, Ms. Hannah-Jones seems to embrace the lunacy of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) – that is, the ‘theory’ that economic reality is drowning in unused resources that are costlessly coaxed into use whenever central banks conjure into existence new money.
MMT is to economics what Lysenkoism is to biology and what Bernie Madoff was to prudent investing. And so if Ms. Hannah-Jones is an MMTer, we need no further reason to dismiss her as a crank peddling crackpot, and potentially dangerous, ideas.
If Ms. Hannah-Jones doesn’t embrace MMT, her tweet remains no less certain a sign of her intellectual feebleness. If her remark isn’t inspired by a belief in MMT, then at least she recognizes that any resources used to pay reparations must come from flesh-and-blood individuals. But now we ask: Does she believe – as her tweet would then suggest – that the tax revenues used to fund reparations payments would come from only non-white people? That belief, combined with her support for reparations payments, would be I-have-no-words-to-describe-it dumb: Asians, Latinos, Native Americans, Eskimos, Polynesians, and high-income Blacks would be the only payers of the taxes used to fund reparations payments, with whites paying nothing.
Wow. Individuals who are themselves and their ancestors innocent of the crimes and offenses that Ms. Hannah-Jones believes justify reparations are to be themselves treated unjustly by being compelled to pay all the taxes that will fund reparations. Wow. Perhaps some future Nikole Hannah-Jones-like person will one day argue that the descendants of these 21st-century American taxpayers should receive reparations.
Let’s be overly generous and suppose that she meant the second sentence of her tweet to read “Not only white people will pay reparations.” Still, we’d have a significant portion of reparations payments being made by Asians, Latinos, Native Americans, Eskimos, Polynesians and high-income Blacks. In this case, Ms. Hannah-Jones apparently has no problem with extracting payment for reparations from descendants of people who not only held no black slaves in the U.S., but who also were not responsible for the offensive Jim Crow-era restrictions. In addition, higher-income Blacks would be paying reparations to lower-income Blacks.
The only potential ethical and economic salvation for this latter position is to insist that the costs of making and enforcing finer-grained distinctions are too high to justify shielding Asians, Latinos, Native Americans, Eskimos, Polynesians and high-income Blacks from having to pay taxes some of which would be used to fund reparations payments. If she’s taking this stance, then she – much like the slavers who she rightly abhors – is willing to forcefully extract from innocent people the fruits of their labor in order to enrich others.
In the late 18th century, and early and mid-19th century, many pro-slavery Americans argued that, while slavery should be abolished in principle, the practical difficulties of doing so made abolition unworkable. Quite a convenient argument to justify the continuation of an unjust system. Equally convenient is the argument that the costs of shielding today’s American taxpayers whose ancestors played no role either in slavery or American apartheid are simply too high to avoid this injustice.
Note that I do not equate innocent people having to pay higher taxes to fund reparations with being enslaved, or with being discriminated against because of race. If I had to endure one of these injustices, I’d easily choose the former. But the former is nevertheless a real injustice. Has any serious attempt been made by Ms. Hannah-Jones to determine if unleashing this injustice is worth whatever ‘justice’ she fancies will arise from reparations payments? Given the demonstrated quality of her thinking, I suspect not.
The ability of human beings to conjure excuses for their predations against innocent others is frighteningly abundant. And very many of those who make and propound such excuses do so under the conviction that god, truth, and justice are unquestionably on their side.