September 23, 2011

Elizabeth Warren Elevator Talk

Blog brother jk appealed for Randian elevator speeches to answer the latest liberal female candidate for Ted Kennedy's senate seat who said, "There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own - nobody."

My first temptation was to say, "Please read Craig Biddle's (not Bill Whittle) essay on Ayn Rand's Theory of Rights: The Moral Foundation of a Free Society. It is superb. But it is far more than an elevator ride. And that is the trouble. Americans have been taught for generations that it is unconscionable for "the richest nation in the world" to let any of our neighbors go hungry or be denied the latest medical treatments. How does anyone counter this belief in even the world's longest elevator ride? Perhaps like this...

A human is a living thing that cannot survive without using his or her mind to identify values and act to achieve them. Values begin with those things which a human needs for survival. They begin with food, shelter, clothing. They then progress on a scale from necessities to comforts and then luxuries.

Civilization and prosperity have made luxuries into comforts and comforts into necessities. But civilization also tries to make leisure into work. Our prosperity has convinced many of us that there is enough wealth to go around to everybody, so nobody needs to work any longer. This fiction is extended even beyond the realm of materials and into services, such as medical treatment and disaster assistance. But there is no free lunch. Without production and commerce there is no prosperity, and production is not automatic. No man will work to create something unless he will profit. No man will learn medicine and care for others unless he receives a comparable value in return.

Businessmen, of all people, recognize the value of a polite society. Why do you think they always tried to hire Clint Eastwood to protect their two-bit town from the local gang? This is why most people are happy to pay a nominal tax to support basic government services, or even a higher tax for some extra-special services. But still more taxes to transfer his wealth to the less industrious are another matter. Take away a man's profit without his consent and he will either stop producing things you used to get from him or he'll leave your civilization and start his own somewhere beyond your reach. Either way, you are worse off than when you worked for your own earnings and traded with him fairly.

Of course, all of this presumes that your goal is to be happy and prosperous in your own life. Some men aspire to nothing more than to harm others. Don't be that guy, and don't demand what you haven't earned.

Elevator Talk Philosophy Tea Party Posted by JohnGalt at September 23, 2011 12:34 AM

Thanks for your thoughtful response and the link. That's a great follow-up after Locke.

At best, however and by your own admission, that is the Paul Ryan answer, and I need the Chris Christie answer.

At worst we return to our old argument, Even a very intelligent and open minded person will find that a lot to understand and accept. I am not sure I am 100% in and it asks only a small shift of worldview from me (I am pretty keen on the natural rights view, and I quote my blog brother that God-given rights are fine with me as my "creators" were named Mom and Dad).

Jeffrey Miron bifurcates between rights-based and consequentialist libertarians. Perhaps we are hopelessly divided across that interstice.

Posted by: jk at September 23, 2011 11:20 AM

I admit this would require all 56 floors of Denver's Republic Plaza tower to recite, and a determined effort at memorization. I'll keep working on a ten-floor version.

But the one-floor version is most likely: "Humankind may be prosperous, but not so much that nobody need work again. You ask wealthy people to 'pay their fair share' but you still need to pay your own way - from cradle to grave."

Any kumbaya there?

Posted by: johngalt at September 23, 2011 12:43 PM

I should be clear -- your stuff is quite good. I was suggesting Mister Biddle had gone a little farther into the weeds than the average political moderate can be led.


Posted by: jk at September 23, 2011 3:45 PM


Hat-tip Jonah

Posted by: jk at September 23, 2011 4:09 PM

Awesome. I'm not worthy!

Posted by: johngalt at September 23, 2011 5:17 PM

"Focusing on infrastructure as the crucial support of entrepreneurial activity is like crediting the guy who built young Bill Gates' garage with the start of Microsoft."

The two story rebuttal from Rich Lowry.

Posted by: Terri at September 23, 2011 10:31 PM


Posted by: johngalt at September 23, 2011 11:49 PM

Made my first try today. A Facebook comment makes an elevator ride look long, but my brother got this in response to the picture of her with her remarks;

If given more respect for property rights than Professor Warren showed on the consumer banking project, those successful factory owners will happily fund "the next kid" who comes along.

Nobody gets rich in a vacuum or without property rights -- there is a great weekend editorial on Hayek and The Cloud at WSJ. But it is unconscionable to say that it takes a village to raise a billionaire -- if you remove a Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, TJ Rodgers or Andy Grove, it changes the world. Even though there are still roads for iPods and computers to be delivered on. Those visionaries created their wealth ex nihilo and we all benefitted from it.

I disagree with Warren to the central fibers of my being, but I applaud her for making a rational (if boneheadedly wrong) argument in favor of Progressivism. Individual achievement is the most important thing in the betterment of mankind, and man, as the owner of his person is fully entitled to the fruits of his labor.

Posted by: jk at September 25, 2011 7:22 PM | What do you think? [8]