Friday, September 23, 2011

Class warfare and public goods

I think this is about the best short description I've heard yet of why wealth isn't created by heroic individuals (a la Ayn Rand's most potent fantasies). I just wish Elizabeth Warren had been appointed head of the new Bureau of Consumer Protection. Based on the words below, I can see why there was intense opposition from Wall St. She's obviously not a Randroid:

I hear all this, you know, “Well, this is class warfare, this is whatever.”—No!

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 forces and fire forces that the
rest of us paid for.

You didn’t have to worry that maurauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.

Now look, 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.


  1. That's a nice quote.

    Gladwell's book "Outliers" had a lot of examples where the mythic "pull up by your own bootstraps" doesn't hold - from Gates to hockey players to whatever.

  2. In today's society, it is by definition impossible to be 100% self made. But all men are afforded the same state granted opportunities (minorities are given more, but we can ignore moronic laws like affirmative action for this conversation), yet some men are successful and some are not.

    So if x% of their success comes from the state's granted opportunities (roads, education, national security, etc), then 1-x% comes from the man.

    So all men have an equal state-granted OPPORTUNITY. Some squander it, some are very successful. I believe they do owe a debt to the state for that opportunity, but not for the success. And I believe all men owe a debt for the opportunity, since all men had an opportunity. What they do with it is their business, and the consequences should rest firmly on them. They should have no debt for success or claim for failure.

    In other words, all men, regardless of success owe an equal debt to the state. Punishing the man who is more successful with higher taxes and rewarding the man who is a failure with benefits is wrong.

  3. I believe the middle class is the one that suffers the most. They are affected by everything that happens and the struggle between the lower and upper ones. When I was in Argentina, I noticed the differences through the apartments in Buenos Aires. Those who own properties are the rich (because they can afford it) and the poor (because the government gives them houses) the ones who have to rent are those who belong to the middle class!

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