E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post seems to have a thing for Elizabeth Warren, the wannabe Native American junior senator from Massachusetts. Dionne never tires of praising or defending Warren, even if it means setting up and knocking down a straw man, even the same flimsy straw man over and over (see here).
More than once, Dionne has gotten excited about the answer given by Warren while attending a living room gathering during her Senate campaign in 2011:
There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear: You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for.
For Warren, all of this is part of the “underlying social contract,” language that Dionne finds especially thrilling because it’s a phrase politicians “don’t typically use.” Of course, America’s founding fathers based the Constitution on social compact and natural rights theory, but liberals like Warren rejected this ages ago. Dionne is talking rubbish when he tries to link Warren’s views with those of the founders.
According to Dionne, Warren doesn’t back away from any of the facts about economic infrastructure and its role in the economy. But guess what? Neither does anyone else. Dionne’s opponents are purely imaginary – nobody believes that people who get rich in this country do so all on their own and that infrastructure is irrelevant to economic activity.
The question isn’t whether the government should provide a legal and even physical framework within which economic activity takes place,* but whether and to what extent the government should engage in economic decision-making rather than leaving the decisions to firms and individuals interacting through competitive markets.
Dionne does not even pretend to address the real question. Instead, all we get is another attack on the same straw man and praise for Warren as she parrots the most obvious and non-controversial facts about economic infrastructure (which FDR and others used to similarly mislead the public over 80 years ago). Not exactly original.
*Although much infrastructure in fact can be provided by private firms, e.g., toll-roads.