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UPDATE: Edited to add the Ta-Nehisi Coates article on the Case for Reparations


Topics for Discussion (sans articles for the time being)

  1. A Latin American “EU”? – discussions of whether or not it makes sense for the countries of central and south america to form an economic union, similar to Europe. Some possible thoughts to consider are the challenges to having a common currency (especially given Latin American monetary history) and what central banking authority would prevail, where the central/capital organizing city would be, whether political union is required to make economic union to work, etc.
  2. Reparations. Among the discussion items should not only be restricted to the case of American slavery, but a wider class of injustices, including other slavery in history and across geography; other injustices. Who decides? Should wealthy foundations and universities whose founding lands and monies had “slave money” in them, or other unsavory business practices behind them, be forced to pay the current value of the damages? In other words, should we liquidate these modern institutions?Are we better with an unjust founding but places where scholarship and learning about injustices continue to exist? What would take their place? Who should be included as payees? Who should be included as payors? Should those who did the initial enslaving (such as the tribes of West Africa) be making payments to (now much richer) modern Americans? What role did property institutions in certain countries play in the emergence of the slave trade? How far back should we go in the case for reparations? I am pretty certain portions of my ancient ancestors lived in bondage (my family is from Sicily and Naples, with heritage from North Africa). What about the discount rate? Imagine you believe in highly discounting the future, and apply that back to the past? What does that imply for the current value of damages owed based on even small amounts “taken” in the past? Are any current people ineligible for reparations? What if you are a billionaire already?

    What about colonialism and other forms of indentured servitude? There is an active debate, for example, that the UK should pay reparations to India. When are debts ever paid off? Here is a debate at Oxford. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7CW7S0zxv4 … here is what is going on in Switzerland! http://www.dw.com/en/switzerland-to-compensate-victims-of-centuries-old-child-labor-practice/a-19218456

    Since we are thinking about reparations, can we “prepay” reparations? So, can we do harm tomorrow if we pay for it today? Or take the issue of taxation – is it possible to buy your way out of your obligations.

    Would payment of reparations UNDERMINE the case for equality and justice and common understanding today? After all, no one alive today actually committed the previous injustices.

    Are past injustices sunk? Or are there lasting damages, including psychological effects?

  3. Taking your pulse on Transgenic (Food) Biotechnology, including broader “unnatural” interventions in the genome including standard breeding techniques (where we smash together hundreds of genes rather than just one), mutation breeding, cloning, and other breeding techniques. Why does Taleb act so un-gracefully in response to challenges on GMOs? Why are “organic” and “non-GMO” used as substitutes? When the term “anti-science denier” is thrown around in the climate debate, that itself is antiscientific. How much overlap is there in the “climate change is going to end the world” camp versus “GMOs are potentially very, very, very dangerous?” The “science” is pretty clear (or is it) on both. Are many people actually against GMOs? RELATED: if we managed to end factory farming in animals and replaced with (corporate grown) lab proteins, would vegetarianism still be popular? Other food issues?

Some other thoughts?

  • The sad spectacle of cities (including Rochester) groveling to Amazon
  • What is Russia (and others) doing in the (new) Arctic? Youtube video (12 mins)

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