All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare.


22 September 2011

In Which I Remind Elizabeth Warren of Her Benefit in the Social Contract

Elizabeth Warren said the following, in case you haven't heard:

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, uh, 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.

Actually, Professor Warren, you didn't have to worry that the rich guy with the factory over there was going to hire marauding bands of "private security" to protect his investment.

YOU got to sleep comfortably at night working in a university without worrying that the rich guy with the factory over there was going to use his superior resources to turn you into his serf.

The guy with the knowledge and gumption and wherewithal to build a factory is the same guy who could build a castle and enslave you in another world.

So how about you cut him a little slack, and stop pretending that he's the one really benefiting from our bargain?

It is the weak, the unambitious, the unskilled, and the unlucky who benefit most from our arrangements. That we provide roads and police and so forth has the additional fringe benefit of allowing any of us who wish to to make our own fortunes.

UPDATE: My ruminations on the ability of the social contract to bind power reminded me of one of my favourite examples in the movies of someone speaking from a position of power:

Really Powerful Person: "It may seem like we have each other over the same barrel. But it only seems that way."

Less Powerful Person: "I want..."

Really Powerful Person: "You want?"

Less Powerful Person: "May I... May I have the first question?"

Bonus points if you recognize it.

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