By now you’ve probably heard about the “You didn’t build that” flap, after Obama attempted to use at a campaign stop a piece of Elizabeth Warren’s Social Contract talk and Romney’s campaign responded by basically calling him a Marxist (HAHAHAHAHA!!!). Normally I wouldn’t bother wading into such a typical blatherfest, but given time to marinate I came to a point about it worth sharing.
On the League of Ordinary Gentlemen group-blog, a quick 100th birthday tribute to Milton Friedman by Tom Van Dyke veered in comments to the aforementioned issue, with Tom (a Romney supporter) arguing that the remark shows a fundamental difference in worldviews between Obama and Romney, which Tom implies as the latter somehow having more of a sense of liberty, at least economic liberty, later bouncing off other Obama remarks like so:
“I believe we need a plan for better education and training and for energy independence and for new research and innovation, for rebuilding our infrastructure, for a tax code that creates jobs in America and pays down our debt in a way that’s balanced.”
Blahblahblah government, roads, bridges, etc. etc. Where is the talk of liberating capital and initiative?
In the narrow, mainstream tinkering sense, this is deliberate signaling for each candidates respective pool of followers. That talk of “liberating capital” doesn’t come easily from Obama is no surprise, as the people he’s calling to vote for him largely don’t think that the key problem with the economy is capital restraints. Romney’s audience, to at least some extent, thinks otherwise. Each pander makes sense, though only in the sense that pandering generally does.
There is the grain of truth in “you didn’t build that” as it refers to infrastructure: yes roads, bridges, etc were built to encourage business. Within the beginning internal ruling class dispute in the U.S.’s formative years generally Hamilton won & Jefferson lost, this has played out ever since. However, in a way the remarks prove way too much, even more than Obama would remotely wish to have anyone realize, though not in the way that Tom or Romney are thinking: elevate consideration of structure beyond the obvious roads, and consider the ground rules, the connections, the encouragements and subsidies both open and hidden. Here we get to the meat of the matter, that capital is and has been for quite some time coddled, propped up even. An argument over whether to acknowledge this or not rapidly shrinks in meaning when it is made clear that neither “side” actually wishes to question its continued influence.
The “social contract” talk that drew such return fire deserves questioning, it is just receiving it in the wrong way, a form that does its part to perpetuate the overall charade. What was exposed was not some nefarious socialist boogeyman, but rather the concentrated accrual of benefit from state intervention. If most of the benefit goes to a few people, as pointed out by the tying of this talk to tax policy, then this amounts to admission that the “social contract” is a fraud. We were not presented with this to sign, and if so offered without force of state behind it would reject it.
So, about the “liberation” of capital, I would say that if meant in the current context of the same system but with even more of the benefit kept where it is, of course I’d give it a thumbs down. If, rather, liberation in the sense of ending dependency, of taking the Reaganite Welfare Queen talk that Romney (and Obama to an extent) believes in and pointing it towards the real welfare recipients, I am all ears. Be careful what you wish for…