27 Sep 2011

Elizabeth Warren’s Statist Fallacy

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Dan Greenfield replies decisively to Elizabeth Warren’s “There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own — nobody.” argument.

“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 marauding 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,” Warren says.

This is the stationary bandit theory of government. The problem with it is that it really means you’re paying for government marauding bands who can come and seize everything in your factory. As the CEO of Gibson Guitars found out. …

Warren’s argument is that no one got rich on their own. True. By her definition, also no one makes breakfast on their own. Or does anything at all. No one writes on their own either, someone had to make the pencil or the typewriter or the computer. Why shouldn’t that collective “we” then have a say in what you write?

Here the sleight of hand assumes that the greater society is equivalent to the state, and that any activity makes the individual obligated to pay back the collective whole somehow embodied by the state.

There are two holes in this. It assumes that the individual is somehow getting a free ride at the expense of the other people in the equation. That whatever benefit they receive from participating in the arrangement is insufficient and exploitative. There’s an obvious whiff of Marx to this, but not much common sense.

And the final hole is that the state stands in place of the society, that it is the legal recipient of the net benefits due to society and can claim them. That when you’re expected to pay it forward to the next kid, that doesn’t mean hiring a kid and giving him a leg up, it means paying higher taxes.

This proposition is at the heart of the broken case against private property. If there is indeed a greater claim on private property by the society, why is an oligarchy of Harvard lawyers and government appointees the one to lay claim to it?

This precise form of argument is made by my liberal classmates all the time: “You received Shakespeare, modern medicine, and all sorts of other social benefits, so you owe the government whatever amount of taxes the left might care to demand.”

Greenfield identifies precisely the false logic. The federal government did not create human culture and society, write Shakespeare’s plays, or develop modern medicine. The state-worshipping left’s continual attempt to place government in the position of claiming ownership of human culture and every form of social interaction and cooperation is a grand-scale form of fraud.

Hat tip to the Barrister.

2 Feedbacks on "Elizabeth Warren’s Statist Fallacy"


Warren has the Mafia theory of government. Listen to this description of Pauley and the Organization from the movie, Goodfellas. See if it has a familiar ring.

Warren believes the government operates that way, they provide protection and so you must pay tribute.


When Warren is arguing the value of government spending to entrepreneurs and other businessmen, she always talks about police and fire services, roads and schools. If that’s what she wants more money for, I’m semi-sympathetic. But that’s not what she wants more money for. She wants to take more money from the productive so that she can subsidize the less productive. That’s a completely different argument, and she’s being highly disingenuous about it.
Then, too, there’s this question: Ms. Warren, why is it that you think the FEDERAL government should be involved in funding schools, police and fire services?


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