The Corner

The Social What Now?

So, for reasons that are above my pay grade to know, I’ve got to talk about this video today on Fox. Apparently it’s going viral among progressive types. It starts with the familiar talking points about blaming Bush for the deficit, but what’s got people excited is how it shows Elizabeth Warren pushing back against the “class warfare” rhetoric on the right. You can read more about it here. I’ve posted the relevant transcript below the video.



“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 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.”

It’s a nice little riff, but I’m not sure it’s nearly as powerful an argument as the progressives who are hearing what they want to hear think it is. First of all, the factory owner already pays a hunk — a big hunk — for the next kid who comes along. The “rich” already pay a very disproportionate share of that freight. Warren makes it sound like that’s not happening now, which is of course bunk.

Meanwhile, if you listen to Warren closely, she could just as easily be making the case for if not a minarchist government, then something pretty close. Defending factories from marauding bands is an important function of government, but it doesn’t really take up much of the budget. Ditto fire departments. Education, likewise, is not a huge part of the federal budget (though that’s changing). Moreover, those functions are mostly a local responsibility. I very much doubt this mythical factory owner has much objection to paying for any of that stuff. So far all of her verbiage about the social contract is pious misdirection.

Building roads is more of a mixed federal-state responsibility. But, I don’t know many conservatives who think the government shouldn’t build and maintain roads. What they object to is the grotesque waste and inefficiency inherent to public-works projects imposed by unions and regulations. As I wrote the other day, the reason Obama had to discover there’s no such thing as shovel-ready jobs isn’t because they don’t exist. It’s because there’s no such thing as shovel-ready government, thanks to liberals like Ms. Warren (see Steve Hayward on the point here).

Of course conservatives believe in a social contract, albeit a more bare bones version than the one liberals believe in. Insinuations otherwise are a red herring. But you can believe in a social contract and also believe the Left is pursuing class warfare. The suggestion that one contradicts the other is entirely bogus.

Going from this video, Ms. Warren thinks the deficit Bush created is terrible because it put our kids in greater debt but the deficit Obama has created is fine, even though it does the same thing. And something called “the social contract” requires us to look the other way as we pile up ever more debt on policies that haven’t worked until now. Again, I’m sure that sounds great to people who want to hear liberals “fight back.” But I think she’ll have to try harder if she wants to persuade people who don’t already agree with her.


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