04 April 2007
Apologies

There have been calls for the British government to apologize for the slave trade.

I think it is a crock but I still find the arguments interesting.

Norm thinks there should be an apology:

Simon Jenkins seems to have trouble with the idea of someone taking responsibility for actions of which they are not themselves guilty, particularly where this is on behalf of an organization or institution. But, as I argued here and here, it’s just because organizations and institutions are real entities - though this doesn’t mean they have metaphysical personalities, or could exist without the human persons that at any given time belong to them, act for them, and so on - that those in a position to speak on their behalf can make apology for wrongs of the past, where the organization or institution was responsible for these but the individuals actually making the apology aren’t. There is nothing mysterious about it.

It’s not as stupid as it sounds.  There are precedents for this.  For instance, who hasn’t heard something like this: “On behalf of South West Trains I would like to apologize for the late running of this service.”?

Medworth points out that there’s no one to apologize to.

Hannan reminds us that we are all descended from slaves.  That should make for an interesting one: “I, Tony Blair, on behalf of the British government apologize to myself.”

Wat Tyler reckons that demands for an apology are being used as a wedge for reparations before going on to suggest that the slave trade wasn’t really worth that much.

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