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Government compensation follies

After our country was attacked on 9/11, I published a dissenting essay in Forbes magazine, arguing strenuously against the government compensation board run by attorney Ken Feinberg to distribute tax dollars to the famiies of victims. My voice was drowned out by many others on the other side.

Now history repeats itself. The Washington Post reports that Virginia Tech students' families have hired an attorney to obtain state government compensation for the families of students injured in, or who witnessed, the murders committed by a deranged individual. As was the case for 9/11, no negligence or other wrongdoing by the state is alleged -- only the need to force taxpayers to subsidize this loss.

On Monday, the administrator of the $7 million Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund, which Virginia Tech established to receive voluntary donations in the days after the April 16 shootings, drew up recommendations for direct payments to the victims. Attorney Feinberg, the same man who administered the Sept. 11 fund, said he will recommend that the families of those killed at Virginia Tech receive $150,000 from the fund, and the injured get $25,000 to $75,000. Anyone who was in Norris Hall, where most of the shootings occurred, receive one year of free tuition or $8,000.

But the families' attorney said they deserve far more money, involuntariy "contributed" by taxpayers.

Whatever can be said about the 9/11 payments, they were made to survivors of wage-earners. Are these parents claiming that their livelihood has now been impaired by their children's injuries or death? Clearly not. Rather, their lobbying is another slow creep toward the socialization of all losses.



Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.