Posts Tagged ‘property rights’

Douglass and Reparations

Saturday, September 5th, 2020

In his book on Frederick Douglass (starting on p. 64), Timothy Sandefur outlines Douglass’s attitudes toward various forms of assistance for freed slaves, which today I’d bundle with the reparations debates.

Charles Sumner, Sandefur writes, had a plan “to confiscate plantation land and divide it among the former slaves.” Here’s how Sandefur summarizes Douglass’s view: “Although government could legitimately provide the freedmen with less intrusive forms of aid, the power to redistribute land, however well intentioned, was dangerous: it could easily fall into the hands of the politically powerful—which meant racist whites—who would then exploit that power for their own benefit.”

At this point Sandefur offers a note (#10): “That is ultimately what happened a century later, when racially restrictive zoning laws, and then federal and state ‘urban renewal’ projects, sought to sequester and then evict black landowners to eradicate ‘urban blight.'” Sandefur recommends Clarence Thomas’s dissent in Kelo v. New London.

Douglass’s refrain, with respect to what whites should do with freed slaves, was, “Do nothing with us!” Still, Douglass “supported the work of the Freedmen’s Bureau, established by Congress to protect blacks from violence and to promote their economic status by providing them with clothing, food, health care, and jobs. He even proposed a plan to use government funds to buy southern land and sell it in small lots to freedmen at discounted rates.” He said, “It is not fair play to start the negro out in life, from nothing and with nothing.”

Of course Douglass called for equal treatment under the law, which was not achieved then.

The discussion about compensation involves concerns about justice and about political expedience. If I could go back in time and make my will hold, I’d require former slave holders to seriously compensate former slaves, which in many cases probably would mean selling off plantations, or distributing plantation lands among former slaves, to cover the costs. This no doubt would leave many former slave holders destitute. It’s easy to see how such an outcome would have meant political trouble in those precarious times.

Racist Covenants in Denver

Thursday, June 11th, 2020

Kristin Jones writes, “At the time, it was legal for housing covenants to specifically bar non-white residents from renting or owning homes—and they did, routinely. University of Denver law professor and historian Tom I. Romero, II, JD, PhD, has collected racially restrictive covenants from Denver neighborhoods like Bonnie Brae, Clayton, Crestmoor, Regis Heights and many others, including this one established in the southwest Denver subdivision of Burns Brentwood in 1949: ‘Only persons of the Caucasian race shall own, use or occupy any dwelling erected upon said lots of tracts.'” Hat tip Tina Griego.

Incidentally, Griego covers many other interesting (distressing) facts about Colorado past and present. She points out that the school system and zoning laws disproportionately disadvantage minorities (a libertarian-friendly point). She also reminds us, via Donna Bryson, that Denver bulldozed the largely-Latino neighborhood in the 1960s to make way for the Auraria college campus.

Residential Fire Pits

Thursday, June 11th, 2020

Many people seem to think it’s perfectly okay to burn wood in outdoor yard fire pits in the context of medium-density residential neighborhoods. I’m of a different view. I think they’re quite polluting, they harm people health, and they interfere with neighbors’ reasonable use of their property. I’m not saying they should be banned—although I think a reasonable argument could be made that they should—but I definitely think people should opt for gas (propane) fires instead. Some people will say that’s nannyist; I say your right to emit smoke ends where my nose begins.

Property Destruction as Violence

Sunday, June 7th, 2020

Nikole Hannah-Jones said, “Violence is when an agent of the state kneels on a man’s neck until all of the life is leached out of his body. Destroying property, which can be replaced, is not violence. To use the same language to describe those two things is not moral.”

It is obviously true that murdering a man is a much higher order of moral crime that breaking someone’s shop windows, vandalizing a building, looting a store, or even burning a store down. No doubt.

But obviously destroying someone’s property is a type of violence against the person. As I replied, “There have been many, many white riots to destroy the property of African Americans, Asian Americans, and other racial minorities. That was violence, because destroying a person’s livelihood or home undermines the person’s life.”

Thankfully, today insurance covers much of the damage of the rioting and looting, which means simply that the rioters and looters impose the costs of repair and replacement on their neighbors via their insurance premiums.