18 July 2012

On not building things

I haven't had the energy for lambasting Obama's "you didn't build that" comment. I mean, jesus, didn't we just cover all this when Elizabeth Warren put her foot in her mouth? Haven't we been down this road. I wrote nine counter-arguments to Warren's position back then; I think they apply equally well to Obama now:

SB7 | Getting Rich on Your Own

I should have added a tenth point:

(10) Let's say the factory owner was the beneficiary of public education. His or her teachers were compensated at that time. It's not like there's some profit-sharing clause in their contract.* Although that would be an interesting tuition model for a new university I don't think there's an ongoing obligation from the (now rich) factory owner to the people who taught him years ago, but even if there is, why would there be an obligation from the factory owner to people who currently hold positions as teachers? Because that's the situation: not a transfer from a high-income person to people who made that income possible, but a transfer from a high-income person to people who claim to be making high income possible for others in the future.

Other than that, I didn't really think there was much more to be said, but I realized today that Obama, Warren, and their apologists are not only wrong, they are actually under-estimating how much cooperation is required to become successful in business. Yes, capitalist success requires roads and courts and other state functions. You can't build a business entirely on your own; you need the cooperation of other people. But public employees are but a small moiety of these. What you really need is interactions with customers and employees and suppliers and contractors and other entrepreneurs. You need all of those voluntary, cooperative interactions to succeed. (We don't call them trade "partners" for nothing.)

Meanwhile Obama has been blasting off-shoring/out-sourcing on the campaign trail as some kind of dastardly treason. It really grinds my gears that Obama is simultaneously telling me you can't be successful on your own while also criticizing people who reach across borders and oceans to cooperate with other people.

He isn't content to make entrepreneurship an issue of solitary vs. cooperative effort: he wants to specify exactly who you can cooperate with. Cooperating with GM or Solyndra or the NEA or the International Association of Machinists is good. Cooperating with Honda or UBS or KIPP or Chan's House of Weaving, Spinning & Sewing is bad.

I think I have identified another fundamental, bottom-elephant sticking point between myself and many on the Left: I see capitalism as an essentially peaceful & cooperative endeavor between willing trade partners, and they see it as a terrifying thunderdome of red-in-tooth-and-claw scrooges. I don't think I can have productive conversations with the Left as long as that mismatch exists.

See also:

1 comment:

  1. How does the fact that Obama has generally championed free trade agreements figure into this?