Friday, November 11, 2011

Elizabeth Warren's Class Warfare Argument: Upon Further Review.....

Elizabeth Warren made the following statement in September, 2011:

  “Nobody in this country 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 the police forces and the fire forces the rest of us paid for….because of the work the rest of us did”.

Before considering Warren’s statement, please review the following:

“The notion of civil liberty which we have inherited is that of a status created for the individual by laws and institutions, the effect of which is that each man is guaranteed the use of all his own powers exclusively for his own welfare.

…. Hence, liberty for labor and security for earnings are the ends for which civil institutions exist, not means which may be employed for ulterior ends“.

“An immoral political system is created whenever there are privileged classes - that is, classes who have arrogated to themselves rights while throwing the duties upon others.

….the real danger of democracy is, that the classes which have the power under it will assume all the rights and reject all the duties - that is, that they will use the political power to plunder those-who-have.

….[democracy] must oppose the same cold resistance to any claims for favor on the ground of poverty, as on the ground of birth and rank.

….It [democracy] must put down schemes for making “the rich” pay for whatever “the poor” want, just as it tramples on the old theories that only the rich are fit to regulate society.”

“A free man in a free democracy has no duty whatever toward other men of the same rank and standing, except respect, courtesy, and good-will. We cannot say that there are no classes, when we are speaking politically, and then say that there are classes, when we are telling A what it is his duty to do for B. In a free state every man is held and expected to take care of himself and his family, to make no trouble for his neighbor, and to contribute his full share to public interests and common necessities. If he fails in this he throws burdens on others. He does not thereby acquire rights against others. On the contrary, he only accumulates obligations toward them; and if he is allowed to make his deficiencies a ground of the new claims, he passes over into the position of a privileged or petted person-emancipated from duties, endowed with claims. This is the inevitable result of the combining democratic political theories with humanitarian social theories.”

Pages 26-29, What Social Classes Owe to Each Other, William Graham Sumner, 1883

Now consider this:

“There is an old ecclesiastical prejudice in favor of the poor and against the rich. In days when men acted by ecclesiastical rules these prejudices produced waste of capital, and helped mightily to replunge Europe into barbarism“.

“We all agree that he is a good member of society who works his way up from poverty to wealth, but as soon as he has worked his way up we begin to regard him with suspicion, as a dangerous member of society. A newspaper starts the silly fallacy that “the rich are rich because the poor are industrious”, and its copied from one end of the country to the other as if it were a brilliant apothegm”.

Page 32, What Social Classes Owe to Each Other, William Graham Sumner, 1883

Please note that William Graham Sumner is writing in the year 1883 and he is drawing on circa 1883 political arguments as well as prior/past arguments in history occurring before 1883. That is to say the same class warfare arguments have been made for centuries on end. Hence Ms. Warren’s argument is absolutely and positively a centuries old class warfare argument.

Upon further review….

One must examine the debate strategy of Warren framing her notional political argument into three classes: “we”, “ you” and “them” with the implicit assumption that “we” and “you” are the same whereas “them“ is an outside group/class diametrically opposed to the group/class “we-you“. Sumner explains above that the only class that actually exists in a democracy based upon freedom of the individual is in fact “you”. There is no such thing as “we” and “them”. However, as a purposeful debate point Warren merely creates classes in a classless society them divides the classes as opposing forces.

The next notional political concept framed by Warren is that goods are moved to market on roads paid for by the class “we-you”, workers are educated by the class “we-you” and that somehow, someway the class “them” uses the roads and educated worker for their exclusive use. What Warren purposely leaves out is the concept of “public goods”. Public goods are those items collectively provided by all the “you(s)” for the collective benefit of all the “you(s)”. That the movement from the ancient concept of many small protective societies to one state is partially based on all the “you(s)” collectively empowering the state to provide limited government, of which one function of limited government is to provide public goods such as infrastructure financing and educational financing. That is to say, all the “you(s)” collectively finance a limited amount of public goods that all the “you(s)” benefit from collectively (collectively benefit from the existence of such public goods). (1)

Police forces and fire forces are yet another public good, of which, is a function of the limited government of the state to provide through the financing of/by the single class “you(s)” for the benefit of all “you(s)”. The idea that some “you(s) provide police and fire for the fictional class “them” for their exclusive use is fallacious. (2)

The next item Warren implicitly employs in the perfect vs. the known. Warren creates the perfect [her perfect] world and contrasts it against the real world. That the real world is not her perfect world and hence she rejects the real world in favor of her perfect world skipping by the fact that “perfect” does not exist.

Another implicit assumption put forth by Warren is the “me” vs. “them” argument of transposing the political and economic power purveyor. Stated alternatively, who ever “them” might be, what ever political and economic power “them” might have, should be given to “me” [Warren] as with the power moved from “them” to “me” allows “me” to pursue the notional world of “me” as exclusive power has been transferred to “me”. That exclusive power transferred to Warren to shape her world is better than diffused power which results in Warren not being able to pursue her perfect world.

All and all, Warren’s argument is merely the classic debate position as outlined by Thomas Sowell: a notional proposition is put forth as fact, the notional proposition is then argued to be an empirical fact, the notional proposition is delivered through verbal virtuosity, and the notional proposition ends merely in one [Warren] painting the world in one’s own self image [the self image of Warren]. (3)

If James and Jane Goodfellow feel that politicians dupe them, James and Jane really need to look further into notional propositions put forth as fact.


(1) (2) Anarchy, State, and Utopia, Robert Nozick

(3) Intellectuals and Society, Thomas Sowell

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