Earnest Progressives urging their liberal champion Elizabeth Warren to run for president pose a critical riddle for Americans: Can the Left promise Americans prosperity and opportunity when Leftists dislike the people, forces, and dynamics that generate real growth? Do liberals even like prosperity?
The American Left disapproves almost everything about people who create wealth in a free market: They distrust the profit motive; they disdain consumerism; they question entrepreneurs’ moral claim to the fruits of their own labors; and they fail to grasp the seamless bond connecting “business” and “people,” believing instead, that business is some dangerous separate thing that can be demonized, harassed, and shackled in the name of making things better for people.
Barack Obama tried to blunt this criticism in the second presidential debate, asserting: “I believe that the free enterprise system is the greatest engine of prosperity the world's ever known,”
Observing the administration’s treatment of business and the economy, it’s tempting to dismiss the claim as a whopper on the scale of “You can keep your doctor.” But the truth is actually worse. Obama probably does believe free enterprise builds prosperity best of all; but, that’s just not very important to him. He cares more about concepts like fairness, equality, social justice, and government control of the economy than about growth and opportunity.
A booming economy, soaring markets, robust growth and investment, all actually produce things the Left dislikes: Personal fortunes, growing inequality; higher consumer expectations, more building and expansion. A vibrant economy of producers and consumers becomes a society inclined to let freedom hum along without government needing to run the show—that’s anathema to the Left.
One of the most beguiling expressions of this view helped Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren become a darling of the left. Warren set liberal hearts aflutter with her redistributor’s manifesto:
“There is nobody in this country who got rich on their own. Nobody. You built a factory out there - good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on 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. You didn't have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory... Now look. You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea - God bless! Keep a hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”