Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ms. Warren's Question

Elizabeth Warren has been all over the web because of her statement:
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.
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One thing that's interesting to do with Elizabeth Warren's point is turn it around. Lots of people had access to roads. Lots of people were protected by police and military forces. Lots of people had fire protection. The people who went to work for the factory owner would probably have been content to work for anyone else who paid a decent wage. Yet, of the 200 million or so American adults who had access to all this, relatively few of them actually built a factory and got rich. (or was it the other way around?)
What made the difference?
Or to put it another way, why didn't everyone with access to the same goods and benefits also build a factory?
While it's true that without a social order that allows people to create wealth, there'd be a lot less wealth created, it would seem to be true that the social goods Ms. Warren cites may be necessary, but they are not sufficient.
Something extra is at play.



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