The Obama-Warren Doctrine Is Truly Vile
I am not going to mince words here. I find the Obama-Warren Doctrine to be one of the most disgusting political philosophies around. For those of you who do not know to what I am referring, it is simply the notion that . . .
. . . because roads, schools, police, infrastructure, etc. were paid for by taxpayers, and because business owners utilize these things to run their business, they owe their success to government (and, by extension, they owe more money to government).
That’s the general gist, as articulated by President Barack Obama, Senate candidate Elizabeth “Fauxcahontas” Warren and others. My God, where to start?
First, note the irony that the only time that the left is concerned about taxpayers—or is even willing to mention that government gets its money from taxpayers at all—is when they are making an argument that MORE money should be taken from taxpayers and given to the government. That takes serious chutzpah. Either that or it requires that one had one’s sense of irony removed at birth.
Second, the math simply doesn’t add up.
The only things that government MUST do are to provide security and justice. Police to provide security at home; courts of law to provide justice and a venue for the neutral adjudication of disputes; and a military to protect from foreign aggression. Those are things upon which businesses—and all of us—rely, and which really are best done by the neutral, impartial third-party hand of government.
Let’s add in some things that it is reasonable for government to do. There are plenty of strong, plausible libertarian arguments that certain infrastructural public goods like roads and flood control levees can (and should) be produced privately. However, let’s set those aside and allow government to be the sole creator of those. Let’s throw in the fire department, even though there are private models for that as well.
Now, let’s add in even another layer of public goods: the protection of mutually enjoyed resources. For example, government may exert some effort—and thus taxpayer money—in creating and enforcing regulations that prevent fishermen from fishing the Atlantic cod to extinction. Fine, let’s add that.
Provided that we don’t allow government and police unions to collude to create a scenario of unsustainable wages, pensions, and benefits, policing is not that expensive in the overall scheme. As long as they are good stewards of taxpayer money, taxpayers do not mind footing the bill for the courageous men and women of our thin blue line. Same goes for the fire department. Moreover, these things are done locally, so the federal government (in the person of Obama, et al) should have nothing to say about it.
The courts and roads are also not all that expensive in the grand scheme of things. Neither is making sure that there are enough cod for the next generation to enjoy.
The military is expensive, without a doubt (and it is, unlike most of these other things, genuinely a federal responsibility). However, even there, the military budget, which is admittedly huge compared to other nations, is actually a small portion of GDP . . . and, much more importantly, it is dwarfed by another part of our budget: Entitlements.
The easiest way to gain an understanding of the inescapable fact that mandatory spending on entitlements is what is driving our spending and debt is to watch this video. Without mandatory spending, even with our large defense expenditures, the United States would actually have a hefty surplus right now.
When Obama, Warren, and others assert that business owners need to pay more because they “owe” others, all they are trying to do is get more money into the government. They are doing it to prop up the entitlement programs, which they have been using for decades as vote-buying schemes. They are also trying to get more money into the government generally because money equals government power, and expanding government power is what statists do.
But the bottom line is this: There is more than enough money to cover the legitimate functions of government—the things that businesses actually do use, like roads and courts and security—at current levels of taxation. There would be more than enough money even if taxes were chopped in half.
NB: Some of you may have noticed that I didn’t include schools among the legitimate functions of government. This is a subject for another time, but the basic point is this: Government does not need to be involved with schooling at all. The degree of universality of education was just as high before the rise of public schools as it is now (see Friedman in the education-related chapters of “Free to Choose” for more), and it would be so today if there were no public schools. Human beings would find a way to educate our children—all our children—without any help from government. We’d do it better, we’d do it cheaper, and we’d do it without the perverse way that education is currently funded. Homeowners paying confiscatory property taxes to fund schools, whether they have children or not—and others paying nothing at all, whether they have one child or ten—is perverse. You working until you’re 75 to pay for someone who doesn’t work summers and retires at 58 is perverse. There is a better way . . . but again, that is a subject for another time.
Third, this is simply offensive for a simple reason: Everyone benefits from the roads, the police, the courts, the schools (grrr), etc. . . . BUT NOT EVERYONE BUILDS A BUSINESS!
Sorry for the all-caps screaming there, but seriously, how dare they say that business owners didn’t build their business? This is essentially the point being made by Mitt Romney, the NRCC, and others. If everyone benefits from public goods, but only some build a business, there must be a difference in contribution and effort by the business owner. Only a statist could suggest otherwise. Which leads us to the final reason why this is so offensive.
Fourth, all of this kind of proves Ayn Rand right, doesn’t it? Listen to Obama’s words in the NRCC video here.
“You didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
What? Is he serious?
Listen again to the noises of approval being made by his adoring crowd. What do you glean therefrom?
What I am hearing is something that people say—something that you don’t want to believe is true, but seems inescapably true nonetheless. The Republicans are the party of people who work, and the Democrats are the party of people who take from people who work. No, that does not mean that every Democrat is a moocher and every Republican is a producer. But in the aggregate, that is what each party stands for. If a Republican crowd heard a Republican say of business owners, “You didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen,” they would stand in shocked silence, vomit, or faint. They would laugh, thinking it was irony. No Republican would ever say such a thing. A Democrat says it, and the audience hoots their approval. That says as much about the hooting crowd as it does about the Democrat speaking.
Ayn Rand, popular among many conservatives and libertarians, has long been criticized as having a stark, cold, and uncaring view of the poor. But I don’t believe those aspects of her philosophy were referring to the truly needy poor. The much smaller percentage of the truly needy poor deserve our attention, and can be more than adequately taken care by means private or public. Her issue was with the moocher class, the people who demand that producers give them more, and then curse the producers for not doing enough. Rand’s problem was with lazy people, people who could work, and would work if the government weren’t making it so much easier to not work, and rather to subsist off the efforts of productive people.
Obama and the Democrats don’t care about taxpayers, they care about getting more money into the government, with which to dispense favors, buy votes, and increase their power. There is more than enough money to fund the legitimate functions of government now—there is no need to bleed business owners further, especially not with the deeply insulting assertion that they “owe” society for their success. And, as icing on a very vile cake, this reprehensible assault on productive people—people who have sacrificed so much to build something—appears to be being done on behalf not of the truly needy, but for a class of lazy, non-productive people with an ever-growing sense that they are entitled to the fruits of someone else’s labor.
After spitting out that vile cake and its vile icing, the only utterance my mouth can form is a question:
Who is John Galt?
Ardently devoted to the cause of human freedom, he has worked at the confluence of politics, activism, and public policy for more than a decade. He co-wrote a ten-part series of video shorts on economics, and has film credits as a researcher on 11 political documentaries, including Citizens United's notorious film on Hillary Clinton that became the subject of a landmark Supreme Court decision. He is the founder of several activist endeavors, including AnyStreet.org (now a part of Western Free Press) and Liberatchik.com. He is currently the managing editor of and principal contributor to WesternFreePress.com.