In 2004, George Lakoff, a progressive professor at Berkeley, averred that nobody became successful on his or her own. He asserted that there is no such thing as a self-made man or a self-made millionaire because nobody makes money “without using the common wealth.” Essentially, according to this philosophy, it is only because of public goods that you have advanced in society.
You Didn’t Build That!
During the Labor Day long weekend, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) appeared in the great state of New Hampshire to kiss babies, shake hands, and peddle her progressive policies. She advocated her wealth tax proposal, a 2% penalty on households with $50 million or more in assets and a 3% punishment for homes with more than $1 billion.
In her stump speech, she tapped into the worst emotion of voters – envy – and insulted successful Americans. The senator mocked people who said they worked hard, burned the midnight oil, inherited wealth, and conceived a great idea, adding:
“But here’s the deal. I guarantee you built it at least in part using workers all of us help pay to educate. Yeah. You built it at least in part, getting your goods to market on roads and bridges all of us helped pay to build. Yep. You built it at least in part, protected by police and firefighters all of us help pay their salaries.
And we are glad to do it. These are the investments we make as Americans.”
The senator then ordered “the top one-tenth of 1%” to pitch in a couple of pennies. (Have you noticed that it is no longer the top 1% anymore?)
It does sound familiar to what former President Barack Obama said during the 2012 presidential election campaign. But Warren is repeating herself from years ago when she first ran for the US Senate:
“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 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.
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.”
And, as pointed out earlier, she is partaking in second-hand dealing of Lakoff’s teachings.
Society vs. Government
You have heard the tired old leftist phrase, “Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society.” In the US, the nation did not have an income tax for much of its history, yet the country still paved roads, built infrastructure, and taught the children – most of it without state intervention.
Obama and Warren make the mistake of conflating society and government – two completely different concepts. A society is made up of a group of people who participate in voluntary exchanges, relationships, and transactions. A government is a body that uses force to do anything the mob wants. One idea is free and the other one is coercion.
When Obama made his “you didn’t build that” speech, he referenced a teacher who may have helped you along the way. When Warren spoke to the crowd, she cited police and firefighters for protecting businesses. When Lakoff put forward his theory, he cited the judicial system for handling corporate law.
But it is the teacher and the police officer who should be commended for their work, not a supposed benevolent public department. Does this mean they need to be paid more in the future?
Remember, teachers and cops voluntarily agreed to perform the job at the offered compensation. This does not mean people are forced to pay more because the government decided to absorb an industry. If politicians took over Starbucks or Tim Hortons, should citizens be guilted into paying more because the baristas are satisfying our java needs to survive the day?
Inefficiency Thy Name is Government
Sen. Warren might believe that the government needs to be lauded as being a paragon of efficiency and virtue. But its nature and track record are quite the opposite. Everything it touches metastasizes into waste, pork-barrel earmarks, or expenditures that cost three times more than originally proposed. You see this in any industry the state has intervened in, from health care to education to roads.
Due to a myriad of state-created issues, such as union restrictions, cronyism, or environmental protection, politicians and bureaucrats make things more expensive than they need to be. How many times have you read reports about a tunnel, a bridge, or a public transit project that is experiencing cost overruns and delays? The taxpayers get ripped off, not by a monocle-wearing fat cat in a suit, but rather by the state.
For nearly every aspect of society, the government does not need to be involved. Take a look at roads.
From the nation’s founding to the early 20th century, the US enjoyed enormous private infrastructure: railroads, subways, highways, and turnpikes. They were constructed using private stock dividend-paying subscriptions to cover the costs of these endeavors. Years later, the government took over these areas of the economy, but now it is increasingly turning to the private sector to bail it out.
As Liberty Nation reported in June 2018, Domino’s plans to repair potholes across the country in exchange for advertising space. A growing number of cash-strapped municipalities are applying for the publicity stunt – and why not?
A pepperoni asphalt pizza. Yummy!
The market, comprised of free individuals buying and selling goods and services, can do a much better job at delivering these products. In addition to being cheaper, it is voluntary.
Here’s a Check
Let’s say that Warren and Obama are right. Successful entrepreneurs, wealthy venture capitalists, and billionaire titans owe the government for everything they attained because of the collective or something. So, here is a compromise that should, in theory, benefit both sides: The rich can write a check to Washington and repay the state for the indifferent teachers, the uncouth cops, and the dilapidated roads.
Would $100 million be OK? $1 billion? How about a certified check for $5 billion?
This might be an exaggeration, but it is not far from the truth. The top income earners in the United States already pay their fair share. In fact, the richest Americans are paying their obligations, their neighbor’s, and the nation’s. Even with President Donald Trump’s tax cut, the top 20% are covering more than 80% of the government’s confiscatory penalties. How greedy can politicians get?