Trial lawyers who thrive on class-action lawsuits were salivating earlier this month when State of California officials released details of insurance policies issued by predecessors of modern companies to slave owners before the Civil War.
This was the evidence the lawyers were looking for to push their suits forward, citing "unjust enrichment." They hope to get around statutes of limitations and other impediments to win tens of millions -- even billions -- of dollars from the particular companies they have sued. Once this is accomplished they hope to threaten various other companies, intimidating them into forking over large sums in order to avoid yet more lawsuits.
It is said that individual descendants of slaves won't get any of the money. After the trial lawyers have taken their usual large slice of the proceeds, the rest will go to "charities" of the sort run by Jesse Jackson.
Jackson, by the way, was recently at Governor Gray Davis's side when the latter called for an even broader investigation into the insurance companies' past. Davis said, "Clearly we must right any wrongs and do justice to people who were taken advantage of."
Who but the man who presided over California's energy mess, its $23 billion budget deficit and its Oracle computer software scandal could have come up with such an inspired idea? The opportunities are nearly limitless.
Start with the Jews and Egypt. Pharaoh owes them big time for enslaving them those many eons ago. Since he's not around, Hosni Mubarak and his 67 million citizens will have do the right thing and donate, say, one year's worth of Gross Domestic Product (about $270 billion) to an Israeli charity. A good candidate would be their equivalent of the Red Cross, which the International Red Cross refuses to admit to membership (though it has welcomed Muslim Red Crescent societies).
Then let's move to West Africa. You'll recall that the hapless folk shipped out to be slaves were usually the losers in tribal wars. So the descendants of the winners -- the folks who live in such countries as Senegal, Ghana, The Gambia, Cameroon -- will have to pony up their fair share. Their ancestors usually worked with middle men, Arab slave traders. So, send a bill to Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, as well. No doubt he'll be happy to contribute.
Don't forget those modern day champions of slavery, Sudan and Mauritania, where the old tradition lives as you read this.
Move back a bit more in time and we come to the Romans, who had slaves galore. These were Greeks, Gauls, Picts, Teutons and many others from conquered lands of Europe and the Mediterranean. Now the Italian government probably doesn't have much money to spare, but there's always the Vatican. If it has anything left over after settling the sex scandal cases, it should join the reparations project. It could always give the Sistine Chapel to Jesse Jackson to auction off on eBay. Michelangelo isn't around to complain.
Finally, we come to Adam of Garden of Eden fame. He proved the point that man became enslaved to woman when he let God take one of his ribs to make Eve, so he probably wants his rib back, or the monetary equivalent thereof. Alas, it's doubtful that even a clever ambulance chaser could sort that one out. What is clear is that if the trial lawyers and their plaintiffs succeed, the nation will make a giant step backward in race relations, putting divisive victimology front and center instead of the steady expansion of economic opportunities which black Americans have been achieving.