I know I’m ahead of you Beth…..

I just finish this piece of New Yorker about Professor Elizabeth Warren.


What attracts me is her speech about relationship between Government, businesses and people; and how the best, or better, relationship should be.

“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.”

According to the article, this speech got over million views on Youtube.  But it also got her a lot of opponents on her path to politics, to Senate. The article quoted his opponent candidate, Scot Brown, being asked what he thought about Warren’s speech, “the idea that success in business is nothing more than a by-product of government is to fundamentally misunderstand our free-enterprise system.”

My first response in my heart about her speech today was, “hers view was ideological rather than analytical." And, my second response was, “but businesses pay for the roads and education via tax as well." I then acknowledged that, smugly, I am getting ahead of my former self as a leftard already.

Used to be a self-declared Marxist, because I read three volumes of the Capital, I know how to counter-attack Professor Warren’s status boosting, iconic, speech.  The main problem of her speech is that she ends her analysis of the relationship between Government, people and business at one point. And she arbitrarily, and ideologically, chose investment in roads and education as that point. While politico-economic system didn’t stop there. Or never stops at all. So if anyone wants to analyse this system, one has to analyse, and describe, the whole system. If the system sojourns at several points, like wage, revenue, credit, tax, investment, speculation, market, price, etc. one has to analyse all of them. That’s why Mr. Marx chose dialectics as a tool rather than analytics. There is no if-then in the system/model. Or, it’s equally right if we say there are too many if-thens in the system/model that nullify the if-then model.

I don’t want to make to too complex to describe the relationship between Government, businesses and people, which is already extremely complex. I try to give an analogy, Chinese Mahjong. If you think it’s too oriental, you would be equivalently fine imagining UNO the card game. They are quite similar. Four players have their own set of 13 Mahjong to manipulate, except one of them has a one more to take out to the court surrounded by 4 walls of Mahjong. Each player takes turn to pick one Mahjong from the 4 ‘walls’ on the table to arrange his/her own set of Mahjong, and then picks one Mahjong from his/her set and take it out to the court, to keep his set 13 Mahjong. By and by, players can pick a Mahjong from the court, rather than the ‘walls’, when the one they pick can form a specific pattern with the two Mahjong in their set. But the players still have to give one Mahjong back to the court to keep their sets at 13 Mahjong.

Ignoring the game will have a winner picking the golden 14th Mahjong to form a definite pattern of all the 14 Mahjong in one set, either he/she picks it him/herself from the walls or he/she picks it from the court the last player has just put in the court from his/her set. We ignore this. Still, we can see the relationship among the four players quite clearly, if too schematically. Every one picks something from either the pool, or from the player next to him/her. At the same time, every one takes something out of his set/wealth/possession, which either goes to the court as a wastage, or to the next player to form his/her set/wealth/possession. After several rounds of such process, it’s easy to sum up the game in one Chinese idiom, 你中有我,我中有你. Some of you form part of me, and some of me you. And the public goods/common possession deplete by players’ continuous picking. The relationship among politics, Government, businesses, workers, basically fits in the above Mahjong model. No player in this model can claim another player suck the hell out of me while giving out nothing back to me. It’s not true at all. Every player takes something from one another while gives something back to one another. If every one plays strictly by the rules, there would be no exploitation, no taking advantage of one another, every one has a chance to win according to one’s wit and technique. No one would be worse off from start, except the common possessions/public goods. Because it’s meant to be exploited in the game. It’s set in the rules.

So we come back to Professor Warren. What she has done after her iconic speech was right. Picking players who foul play and keep taking advantage of other players. Or picking players who collude with each other to fix the game at the expense of others. She has been absolutely right to do that, and fit in the above interdependency model fine. But her iconic speech was not right, and by no means based on sound analysis. It’s polemic, hyperbolic and rhetoric. It makes some working class tickling their skin hair and emotion. But it’s not true. Or it’s part of the truth that, when you present it separately, serves only to obscure the truth rather than clarifies it. It’s a populist tricks to set her path to politics.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not going to insinuate that she is hypocritical or sly politician. I really respect what she has been doing, esp. those she did and say since DJT inaugurated. And I really think criticising a politician as sly or hypocritical is anaemic and off the point. What I rather want to do, is smugly telling myself, or those who know her, one word.

“I know you are playing populist trick. And I’ve just got ahead of you Beth."


I know I’m ahead of you Beth….. 有 “ 2 則迴響 ”

  1. I understand she got herself elected by saying these things, that’s really the only comment I can add.

    1. So, Alan, I didn’t write to say populism is anything but good. It’s a tool to earn support, and power. What matters is after all, what we do with the support and the power we’ve got. I didn’t write this part because my writing is inefficient, or bad, as always….haha



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