George Will v. Elizabeth Warren

George Will decided to take on that Elizabeth Warren quote that’s quickly become the favorite of liberals everywhere.  Will:

Warren is (as William F. Buckley described Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith) a pyromaniac in a field of straw men: She refutes propositions no one asserts. Everyone knows that all striving occurs in a social context, so all attainments are conditioned by their context. This does not, however, entail a collectivist political agenda.

Hmmm, Warren takes on Straw Men?  Here’s Will:

The collectivist agenda is antithetical to America’s premise, which is: Government — including such public goods as roads, schools and police — is instituted to facilitateindividual striving, a.k.a. the pursuit of happiness. The fact that collective choices facilitate this striving does not compel the conclusion that the collectivity (Warren’s “the rest of us”) is entitled to take as much as it pleases of the results of the striving.

Somehow I missed the part where Warren said/implied “The collectivist agenda is antithetical to America’s premise, which is: Government — including such public goods as roads, schools and police — is instituted to facilitateindividual striving, a.k.a. the pursuit of happiness. The fact that collective choices facilitate this striving does not compel the conclusion that the collectivity (Warren’s “the rest of us”) is entitled to take as much as it pleases of the results of the striving.”  What’s that about a “straw man” George?

It was funny reading through this column and all its sophisticated language, i.e.,

Such an agenda’s premise is that individualism is a chimera, that any individual’s achievements should be considered entirely derivative from society, so the achievements need not be treated as belonging to the individual. Society is entitled to socialize — i.e., conscript — whatever portion it considers its share.

and thinking about what a weak argument it is ultimately in service to.  Will is not particularly bright.  He’s just got a good vocabulary and wears bow ties.  That’s enough to fool most people.

Lastly, I think Will needs to get out there and listen to more conservative voices and he’ll realize that Warren is not attacking a straw man at all.  Sadly, very many conservatives almost completely fail to see the importance of society and social context in individual achievement.  Or has he not been hearing any of the “class warfare” talk about the oh-so-victimized Galtian “job creators” coming from the GOP?

13 things

I recently linked to a nice David Frum piece to compare Frum and Drum’s take on Romney.  The best part of the post, was actually Frum listing 13 things on which the consensus in the Republican party is wrong (Frum’s point is that he hopes Romney does not actually agree with all of this).  Anyway, it’s quite an impressive (and depressing) list:

On the most urgent economic issue of the day – recovery from the Great Recession – the Republican consensus is seriously wrong.

It is wrong in its call for monetary tightening.

It is wrong to demand immediate debt reduction rather than wait until after the economy recovers.

It is wrong to deny that “we have a revenue problem.”

It is wrong in worrying too much about (non-existent) inflation and disregarding the (very real) threat of a second slump into recession and deflation.

It is wrong to blame government regulation and (as yet unimposed) tax increases for the severity of the recession.

It is wrong to oppose job-creating infrastructure programs.

It is wrong to hesitate to provide unemployment insurance, food stamps, and other forms of income maintenance to the unemployed.

It is wrong to fetishize the exchange value of the dollar against other currencies.

It is wrong to believe that cuts in marginal tax rates will suffice to generate job growth in today’s circumstance.

It is wrong to blame minor and marginal government policies like the Community Reinvestment Act for the financial crisis while ignoring the much more important role of government inaction to police overall levels of leverage within the financial system.

It is wrong to dismiss the Euro crisis as something remote from American concerns.

It is wrong to resist US cooperation with European authorities in organizing a work-out of the debt problems of the Eurozone countries.

It is wrong above all in its dangerous combination of apocalyptic pessimism about the long-term future of the country with aloof indifference to unemployment.

I don’t read Frum enough to know why he sticks with the Republican party (then again, I still go to Catholic Mass most every week), but really, why would somebody who gets all of this remain allied with a bunch of people who don’t?

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