Wednesday, July 18, 2012

No Man Is An Island, Yada Yada...

Below, we see President Obama sort of channeling Elizabeth Warren. It is clearly resonating with his audience and with the left, but why does it irritate the hell out of conservatives?

First the video, then some teasing-out of what we hate about it.

From the start it seems as if he is pointing out the blindingly obvious: Without roads, police, laws, common currency etc. it would be impossible to found and operate a modern business enterprise. True enough but why not go further? Without civilization: Things like language, cuisine, tradition and institutions such as family and marriage; then you wouldn't be able to survive in nature let alone form a government, or enjoy any of the goods that come from it. We could go even further. What about nature and the universe? We did not create these things.

We cannot repay civilization for creating things like language--civilization is largely the product of people who are long gone. As for the natural world, some of us do what we can in the form of religious worship--we cannot pay back what we have, but we can at least show gratitude. Government is very different though.

Roads, bridges, public schools, police and military protection are not gifts from government to the people. No. this is backwards. We the people institute governments for the purpose of providing these goods. We institute and fund these operations for these exact purposes!

An analogy:

I sometimes build furniture for our personal use at home. In order to do this, I have purchased tools, lumber and miscellaneous supplies such as sandpaper, glue and varnish. When I am done, I feel no inclination to send some extra money to Black & Decker because the saw worked, or to send money to Borden because the adhesive managed to stick two boards together. I bought these things and they worked, end of story. But what if I was especially successful and made masterpieces which sold for vast sums of money? Should I then go back and pay extra money to the lumberyard? No. Anybody can buy tools, wood and supplies--they will sell to amateurs like me the same as they sell to masters who are capable of producing great art.

Similarly, the roads, police, public education are available to all of us. Some of us make better use of these things and are successful as a result. So what is the President's point in all of this? He seems to be minimizing the effects of individual effort and focusing on those things which are done by the larger society. The problem is that we are each an individual: Infrastructure is here, all that we can do as individuals is to make use of it or not and that is to be encouraged--not disparaged.

Added: Lots of great visual humor is appearing: More Here

Stay unemployed, my friends.


O Ritmo Segundo said...

Hiya Db. Your Black and Decker analogy is interesting because its an attempt to explain Homo economicus from a conservative perspective that seems obviously flawed to me. Why assume that no one has any appreciation, loyalty, etc., to a company whose products/services they especially like? That would seem to go against Marketing 101.

How does your analogy account for product endorsements? Does every celebrity who endorses a product or company do so merely for the compensation? I would doubt that. I think a number of them actually care to do what they can to encourage what they see as a commitment to quality that they appreciate on the part of a certain business. I frequent small businesses whose attention to/knowledge of me and personal relationship with me benefits me in ways that go appreciably beyond my own sense of consumerism, although there are benefits there, too. But for the most part, I have an interest in encouraging quality in the marketplaces that I frequent - personally and economically.

There are motivations beyond money, Man. If you're going to go on about religion, I'd try reviewing that part about not living by bread alone. It's actually true.

dbp said...

Hi Ritmo,

I suspect you are reading too much into what I am saying. All I am saying is that I do not think that I should send more to Black & Decker for the saw I already paid for. If it works well, I may want to buy another tool from that company though.

As for endorsements, I suspect that many celebs would indeed endorse whoever will pay them for it. The reason endorsements work is that most people (myself included) imagine that we would only endorse products we believe in and our favorite celeb must be like that too, so their endorsement makes us think the product must be good.