Glasgow University has decided to give in to the Woken SS and cough up £20 million in slavery reparations. This is a bad idea.
No, not because slavery was a good idea. Not because slavery didn’t damage and harm people – it obviously did. But there’s no one alive today damaged by slavery to whom reparations can or should be paid. Therefore there’re no reparations due.
Glasgow University is to pay £20m in reparations to atone for its historical links to the transatlantic slave trade in what the University of West Indies has described as a “bold, historic” move.
Let us specify – accept for the point of the argument – that Glasgow University has cash today that came from that trade in human flesh. Given how economies work there’s not going to be much of it left but still, we’ll run with the idea.
The steam engine pioneer James Watt is among donors denounced by Glasgow University for their links to the slave trade. On Friday the university became the first in Britain to announce a package of reparations for its benefit from the slave trade. It pledged to raise £20 million over the next 20 years to fund a new research centre which will be a joint venture with the University of the West Indies. Among the financial contributions that Glasgow University says it has discovered have unacceptable links to slavery is Watt, one of the UK’s most famous inventors whose face currently appears on the £50 note.
That’s simply stupid. The reciprocating steam engine had more to do with the abolition of slavery than any other one single thing or event. Slavery was, after all, near universal across human societies until we invented something that powered an economy on something other than muscle power.
But it also found that the institution received ‘significant financial support’ from people who profited from slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries. It found that it had received between £16.7m and £198m in today’s money.
We’ll stipulate to that too.
Glasgow University has promised to raise and spend £20 million over the next two decades to increase awareness of slavery as part of an agreement with a Caribbean counterpart.
Slavery seems to be pretty well established as an historical fact, Quite why we need more of this is unknown.
However, Joanna Williams, an academic and author, questioned the university’s motivation in making the declaration of contrition. “I suspect that Glasgow University’s motivation is more about the present than the past,” she said. “It plays well with students and potential students for it to be berating itself for privileges and financial gains it may have made in the past and to be able to present itself as a woke, anti-racist institution.
The point of sending snowflakes to university is to educate them, not pamper.
At which point we do need to point out why there are no slavery reparations due. No one alive today has been harmed by it. The point and purpose of reparations being to make whole the damage caused. If there’s no damage then there are no reparations.
West Indians are richer than West Africans.
Hmm, well, maybe not Haitians or Cubans but everyone else. In fact, slavery means that those descendants of slaves are better off than the descendants of the non-slaves – or even those who sold them into slavery in Africa – are. Slavery thus has had a positive effect upon the lives of those descended from those who suffered it.
“I’m better off because slavery existed. Give me money because slavery existed.” is not a convincing argument. But it is the one being used. As such it is an argument to be rejected.
“G-G-Granpops suffered so give me money” might even be true but it’s also not a convincing argument for reparations.