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Refuting Warren specifically, and liberalism in general October 9, 2011

Posted by intellectualgridiron in Politics.
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By now, many readers who have been paying attention to the political scene have no doubt heard the quote from Elizabeth Warren that has recently “gone viral,” to use the modern parlance.  Warren, who currently seeks the nomination from the Democrat Party to run against Republican Senatorial incumbent Scott Brown for Massachusetts in the 2012 election, created something of a stir during a meeting with voters in someone’s living room in Andover, Mass., when a would-be constituent had the temerity to question the idea that more government is the solution to everything.  She responded:

“There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own.  Nobody.  You built a factory out there — good for you.  But I want to be clear.  You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for.  You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate.  You were safe in your factory because of police and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. …  You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea — God bless, keep a big hunk of it.  But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”

Sigh.  Where to begin?  The fallacies of Warren’s little rant are so numerous, I ask that question in all earnestness.  Naturally, these fallacies require refutation, and who better than George Will, who explains how that rant encapsulates the modern liberals’ contempt for individualism and their lust for collectivism.  Moreover, Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe effectively attacks these fallacies by pointing out that she mentioned nothing of the wasteful government boondoggles that promote inefficiencies, nor the burdensome regulation that stiffles innovation and growth.

Will’s reminder to all of us is thus:  Warren misunderstands, on a fundamental level, what the purpose of government is.  Her rant was symptomatic of the liberal intelligensia’s fixation on the idea that everyone else is a potential victim, and the only way to preempt such victimhood is for everyone else to subordinate themselves to the intelligensia for their own good.  More to the point, though, Warren has fundamental misunderstanding in what America’s “social contract” truly is all about.  The individual’s social contract is to cooperate with one’s fellow man.  To do so out of one’s own free will requires the individual have an incentive — specifically, an economic one — to cooperate with one’s fellow man.  That same incentive will lead people to make rational decisions with regard to such cooperation.  Government’s job is to facilitate such cooperation with roads, schools, and police.  Warren’s implication is that government is to create such cooperation through social engineering — in other words, government is not just to facilitate, it it is create it as well.

Thankfully, this thinking is at odds with the majority of the public.  Jacoby points out in his column (linked above) that people’s dissatisfaction with the government is at a 40-year high, according to a Gallup Poll.  Contrast that with 84 percent of the public thinking positively about entrepreneurs in general, and 95 percent thinking positively about small business.  Full disclosure:  yours truly works for a small-business manufacturer, as legally defined.

All this leads to yet another false premise that Warren implied to operate under during her infamous rant:  that because conservatives are suspicious of government’s effectiveness means that they want to do away with government altogether.  Of course nobody in the mainstream, right or left, wants such a thing, and that includes the Tea Party movement.  What those who are advocating for limited government call for is a reduction, not randomly, but towards that for which the federal government was instituted; to provide for the national defense, to deliver the mail, to help out with infrastructure when need be, and to provide uniform interstate commercial regulations that are not too burdensome at the same time.

Alas, this is currently not the case, as the federal government has grown way beyond in function for which it was originally intended.  Our tax dollars go towards unstainable “entitlement” programs that are driving us broke (James Madison admonished his colleagues against “objects of benevolence in 1794).  It was the federal government that gambled with the taxpayers’ money when it gave exorbitant amounts of cash to failed enterprises like Solyndra (since when did our Founding Fathers want government to pick winners and losers in business, anyhow?).  The federal government also wastes our money on regional airports nobody uses, un violation of the spirit of using the power of government for internal improvements.  This hardly even scratches the surface, but they are sterling examples of grounds for those objecting to big government, and eating up more of our hard-earned money in so doing — money that could go to further the private economy, and private sector jobs.

If Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren is serious about living up to her prestigious academic credentials, then she would be well-served to brush up on the Constitution and learn about the concept of Enumerated Powers in Article I of that important document.  But her rant exposed her bias as an elitist academic who thinks she knows what is best for everyone else.  With that sort of bias, I doubt she could humble herself to learn of this important concept, even if her effectiveness as a would-be legislator hinges on it.

With all of this in mind, Warren has yet to win the Democrat Party nomination, which could be more difficult than it would initially seem.

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