Paul M. Jones

There are no solutions, only tradeoffs.

Explaining why "you didn't build that" so offended business people

In all the argument over whether conservatives were taking "you didn't build that" out of context, few on the left acknowledged that he was trying to say what Warren had said to such acclaim from the Democratic base. Even in context, the argument that accomplishment in business is collective is deeply offensive to most people in business, at least when they are not camouflaging themselves at a college town cocktail party. Since many liberals are genuinely baffled about why this should be so, I shall try to explain. Suffice it to say that the reasons are legion.

The very argument is disingenuous. Neither mainstream Republicans nor the Tea Party activists who drove the 2010 election are against public roads, public education, police departments, firefighters (Warren) or, even, technology spin-offs from necessary spending on national defense (Obama, re the Internet). There has been a broad national consensus around each of these for between 100 and 200 years (I am sure we all remember that Eli Whitney's invention of interchangeable parts was in the context of defense spending). To suggest otherwise is to erect and demolish a straw man ...

Even if, as a liberal might respond, there are many other examples of government spending that helps "successful" people (in Obama's expression) or factory builders (in Warren's), the argument is still a straw man. The argument today is not between minimal government and Communism. Today government at all levels accounts for 39% of GDP, up from 33% or so during the now halcyon Clinton years. That range defines the mainstream debate -- most Republicans would be thrilled to return government's share of GDP to Clinton-era levels, and most Democrats would be outraged. The range might expand to 46% or so at the high end if one includes the 80-100 Democrats in the House who would fully nationalize health care, and falls to perhaps 30% at the bottom if one includes the most conservative Tea Partiers who would privatize Social Security. But that is the widest possible scope of the disagreement, and under no circumstances does it contemplate that we should do away with roads, police, teachers, firefighters, or national defense. To suggest otherwise, as Warren and Obama have done, is so transparently dishonest that it can only be explained as an attack on "successful" people for political advantage. They noticed.

All emphasis mine. Via TigerHawk.