Barack Channels Princess SummerFall WinterSpring

The princess of the title is Elizabeth Warren, self-reputed to be of Cherokee descent. And, as Native Americans go, Warren is about as authentic as Princess SummerFall WinterSpring of Howdy Doody.

You may remember Warren’s bleat of last September, in support of Obama’s plan to soak “the rich.” It caused ripples in the blogosphere (here and here, for example). The bleat? It goes like this:

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.

Last week, in Virgina, The Mighty O said the same thing in slightly different words:

There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back.  They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own.  You didn’t get there on your own.  I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart.  There are a lot of smart people out there.  It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.  Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

I repeat what I said in response to Warren’s bleat:

Who said anything about anyone getting rich on his own? But didn’t the factory owner — and other “malefactors of great wealth” — pay a “fair share”of the taxes that support roads, education, and police and fire forces? Yes.* Didn’t the factory owner pay his workers for their labor? Yes, and sometimes (in the case of union workers) at the expense of consumers and those workers who couldn’t find employment because unions effectively limit entry to the labor market.

If anyone owes “the rest of us” anything, it’s the workers who received subsidized educations that enabled them to earn good wages at factories that were built because factory owners, shareholders, bond holders, and (sometimes) venture capitalists put their own money at risk.

Workers and others (including Elizabeth Warren) ought to be grateful to the “malefactors of great wealth” who have — against heavy odds — enabled America’s prosperity.

Tom Smith of The Right Coast weighs in with this:

…{H]ow many more successful businesses, inventions, products, services, toys, tools, insights, and just plain fun would there be, if government did not in the first place make it so ridiculously difficult to start a business and keep it going? I don’t see our young president taking credit on behalf of the state for all the failures it help cause, all the ideas that never got off the ground because the regulatory hurdles were so high, or all the established companies that never had to face competition because they had managed to get their rents written into law. This is part of the seen and not seen insight of Bastiat. What you see is a successful business when it manages to survive, and then people run up, the same people who taxed and regulated it nearly to death, and say I helped! I helped! What you don’t see are all the businesses that perished or never got started because of the heavy hand of the state. And it’s a very heavy hand….

I started a business, commercially unsuccessful, sadly, but we created some great technology. I was a libertarian before that, but I was really a libertarian afterwards. It’s difficult to even explain how pervasive, expensive, frustrating and sometimes just plain insuperable the regulatory and taxation burden of the state is. It’s not what did our venture in, but it helped….

It’s obvious, but still worth saying — for our young President to suggest that government deserves some large part of the credit for the achievements of business founders who manage, in spite of it all, to start a business and make of a go of it, is deeply, deeply perverse. What it ought to get credit for are all the unseen businesses, no longer here or never to be, that it is responsible for.

I can tell you, from bitter experience as a business owner and corporate officer, that Smith is exactly right. The burdens that government imposes on the creation, expansion, and operation of businesses are myriad and onerous. Most Americans aren’t aware of just how much government does to discourage the creation of jobs, income, and wealth because most Americans — even those who are employed — are not exposed to the ugliness of the business-government interface. If business-government transactions were rated like movies, they would be rated XXX.

There is one more thing to be said about the Warren-Obama attack on industriousness. It’s wrong, as any economist worth his salt could tell you. (That excludes Paul Krugman and his fellow worshipers at the altar of big government.) Despite the pretensions of bleeding heart libertarians and their brethren on the left, no one on Earth is qualified to say how much a person deserves to earn. Aside from thieves and others who coerce their earnings from others (e.g., government officials, members of compulsory unions), Americans earn what they are able to command for their services, on the basis of the value of those services to others.

The factory owner who makes a lot of money does so — after having taken the considerable risk of owning a factory and putting up with a lot of crap from government — because what he produces is valuable to others. He is being rewarded more than his employees because he is taking  risks and putting up with harassment. He is, in other words, being rewarded for his contributions to the success of his enterprise. (Did Barack or Elizabeth do anything to help him create it? Did the workers do more than they were paid to do? No, to both questions.)

And if the factory owner loses a lot of money and goes out of business, is it the fault of those who failed to buy his products? Would Barack Obama and Elizabeth Warren say that everyone let him down? They should, because by their “logic” the failed factory owner was failed by everyone who didn’t buy his products, and so they owe him something.

But most American business owners are not whiny brats like Barack Obama, Elizabeth Warren, and the freeloaders whose votes they depend on to stay in power.

Related posts:
The Causes of Economic Growth
A Short Course in Economics
Addendum to a Short Course in Economics
The Price of Government
Asymmetrical (Ideological) Warfare
“Buy Local”
Giving Back, Again
Taxing the Rich
More about Taxing the Rich
Luck-Egalitarianism and Moral Luck
In Defense of Wal-Mart
Union Thuggery
Estimating the Rahn Curve: Or, How Government Inhibits Economic Growth