Monday, September 26, 2011

Serfs in Warrenville

Sultan Knish

If nothing else, Elizabeth Warren's campaign for Commissar of Massachusetts deserves to be credited for getting at the heart of the issue. And the issue is private property.

Is there such a thing as private property? According to the Warrens, private property is a false construct. Property is generated, maintained and protected through the state. The individual is a sharecropper whom the state generously allows to retain the majority of his wealth and land. But when the individual begins getting uppity and asking why he has to give the state so much, then it's time to remind him that everything he has really belongs to the state. Elizabeth Warren is unsurprisingly a lawyer, even less surprisingly, a Harvard Law professor, still less surprisingly, she had a string of government appointments on influential committees. Her resume is representative of how unrepresentative Harvard lawyers with government connections are to the people on whose behalf they claim to have abolished private property.

After overseeing the TARP boondoggle, Warren insists with a straight face that the government has the right to demand more money from the people for the benefit of everyone around them.

"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," Warren says. But the flip side of that equation is that it's the need for markets and goods that helped get the roads built in the first place. It's that need which makes cities and towns, more than public servants do.

The government cannot make towns and cities, China and North Korea have proven that with ghost towns. It is those factories and market that make them.

And the public benefits from having goods and jobs, much more than it does from people like Warren. That is and has always been the black hole in the left's argument. Warren treats the factory as a net benefit for the factory owner-- when it's actually a net benefit for everyone.

Factories voluntarily employ people and voluntarily garner revenue-- which is more than can be said for the involuntary arrangement with the government. When a factory pays its workers, it does so without forcibly harvesting that pay from us. But when the government employs Elizabeth Warren, we have no choice about paying her salary. We must pay it.

"You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate," Warren continues. Here she goes completely off the rails insisting that any government benefit to people who at one point are hired to work in a factory is an obligation on the factory owner. The workers themselves don't seem to figure in this equation at all. The relationship is purely between the public school system and the capitalist who is now in hock because his workers can't read or write, but know how to use condoms and denounce American imperialism.

"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 benefit here is debatable at best. Most factories still pay for private security. And they also pay for government security forces. Those government security forces however don't actually answer to them. And if they don't pay the "marauding bands", then someone like Warren will sign an order and the marauding bands will invade the factory and seize everything.

And even if the factory pays everything, then Warren will still sign an order and the marauding bands will seize everything, because she doesn't believe in private property.

So after the factory owner pays private security firms to protect his property, pays the government not to seize his property, pays the unions not to shut down his factory and then pays a donation to Elizabeth Warren, so that if she becomes Senator she will be favorably disposed toward him-- he should remember to be grateful and not donate to Republicans-- or marauding bands will seize his property anyway. Just ask the CEO of Gibson Guitars or all those Republican car dealers.

“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,” Warren concludes.

What underlying social contract is that? It's clearly not the one in the Constitution, but apparently there's a whole unstated social contract which says that you're obligated to "pay it forward" to the next kid who comes along.

Who is this kid? It's the famous D.C. Kid of course. Who always comes along sooner or later, with his marauding bands.

Taxes of course aren't paid forward to the next kid, unless he's the owner of a minority business receiving a preferential government contract in exchange for donations to Warren's campaign. They're paid outward to the massive infrastructure of the state which is eating through as much money as it can fit through its snout at any one time.

The greatest progressive sleight of hand in this formulation is that it treats the state as equivalent to the society. What the state demands of you, is what the collective will of the society demands of you. To refuse the state, is to set yourself apart from your neighbors and the people as a whole.

This may be a mildly defensible argument to make in a full democracy, but the United States has never been a full democracy. It has gone from a nation run by male property owners to a nation run by lawyers and lifetime bureaucrats. If the property owner vote was at least representative of a sizable chunk of society, the current system is representative of unions, corporations and the professional class that runs the vast engine of government.

The people do have some say in it, they can choose between several candidates, and occasionally their choice will influence policy. But their ability to have any real say at the policy level has been crippled by political corruption, insider influence and judges who toss aside any referendum result they don't like.

To say then that the will of the state is the will of the people is a manifest untruth. To insist, as Warren does, that government spending is for the public's benefit is an equal untruth. If that were so, then her own party would have made safeguarding social security a priority, instead of using the money on its own pet projects.

Without direct democracy, the state can have no claim to representing the will of the people. The state is a professional class which claims to see to the public welfare, but has a track record of doing the opposite. But even if its rulers were devoted to the public good, even if they were selfless public servants, their will would still not be equivalent to that of the society.
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?

Warren insists that private enterprise is exploitative because it makes use of the benefits that the government provides. And her case is that everyone is permanently obligated to the government because they derive some benefit from it. But that assumes that the government is the final source of benefits for all.

In fact government derives benefit from the people and the factory owners. If Elizabeth Warren has a government appointed job, good for her. Great idea. But it was the factory owners and the people who paid to educate her. It's the factory owners and the people who pay her salary. The roads she traveled, also funded by the same people.

The people don't owe Warren and her vast government machine anything. She owes it to them.

For over a century, the public has paid far more into government than it has received back in benefits. That extra money has gone to people like Warren. It has gone into the entire rotten machinery of crony capitalism, welfare state machine politics and massive bureaucracy. So let's be clear about this. We don't owe Warren and her ilk anything. She owes us.

Private property and free enterprise was used to finance a massive government machine which is the least efficient form of turning wealth into social benefits imaginable. We would see a better return for our money if we just mulched it up, fed it to actual pigs and put them on a truck to Washington D.C.

The balance of debt is certainly not on our side of the ledger. It's on hers. Now it's up to the government and its functionaries to start paying us back for all that money. And they can start by cutting spending, cutting taxes and letting the economy they have been feeding off for so long start to recovery from their parasitism.

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