David Frum June 8th, 2011 at 7:48 am 51 Comments
Tim Pawlenty supporters cite their man’s blue-collar origins as reason to hope that he can reach voters unreachable by say Mitt Romney or Jon Huntsman.
On the evidence of Pawlenty’s big economic speech at the University of Chicago, those hopes are unlikely to be realized.
The problem is not merely the Pawlenty economic plan itself, although it does not help.
The deeper problem is the fundamental view of the economy – of human society really – revealed by this answer to a Chicago student’s question, as recorded by FF‘s Noah Kristula-Green:
There’s about 5% of this country who are our entrepreneurial class … if that 5% becomes 6%, 7%, 8% or 9% then we have a bright future, and if that 5% becomes 4% 3% or 1%, we’re in deep doo doo, we’re in deep crap.
If you imagine that entrepreneurs form a small elite “class” – and that 95% or thereabouts of the human species merely ride along on the wealth created by others – well you may get an “A” in your seminar at the Objectivist Institute. On the other hand, you also probably disqualify yourself from winning much respect or affection (or even much of a hearing) from the voters you dismiss as unthinking order-takers.
Such a view puts the proponent on the wrong side of Adam Smith: “The propensity to truck, barter and exchange one thing for another is common to all men ….”
But maybe more relevantly and urgently, Tim Pawlenty has aligned himself on the wrong side of the first and greatest of Republicans, Abraham Lincoln, who in his 1859 address to the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society delivered a withering retort to those who advance the kind of argument that Tim Pawlenty yesterday advanced:
By some it is assumed that labor is available only in connection with capital – that nobody labors, unless somebody else owning capital, somehow, by the use of it, induces him to do it…. Having proceeded so far, they naturally conclude that all laborers are naturally either hired laborers or slaves. They further assume that whoever is once a hired laborer, is fatally fixed in that condition for life; and thence again, that his condition is as bad as, or worse than, that of a slave. This is the “mud-sill” theory. But another class of reasoners hold the opinion that there is no such relation between capital and labor as assumed; that there is no such thing as a free man being fatally fixed for life in the condition of a hired laborer; that both these assumptions are false, and all inferences from them groundless.