Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Self-Made Myth

A new book makes a strong case that nobody ever makes it on their own in America.
The self-made myth is one of the most cherished foundation stones of the conservative theology. Nurtured by Horatio Alger and generations of beloved boys' stories, It sits at the deep black heart of their entire worldview, where it provides the essential justification for a great many other common right-wing beliefs. It feeds the accusation that government is evil because it only exists to redistribute wealth from society's producers (self-made, of course) and its parasites (who refuse to work). It justifies conservative rage against progressives, who are seen as wanting to use government to forcibly take away what belongs to the righteous wealthy. It's piously invoked by hedge fund managers and oil billionaires, who think that being required to reinvest any of their wealth back into the public society that made it possible is "punishing success." It's the foundational belief on which all of Ayn Rand's novels stand....
 Brian Miller and Mike Lapham have written the book that lays out the basic arguments we can use to begin to set things right. The Self-Made Myth: The Truth About How Government Helps Individuals and Businesses Succeed is a clear, concise, easy-to-read-and-use summary that brings forward a far more accurate argument about government's central role in creating the conditions for economic prosperity and personal opportunity.
Miller, the executive director of United For a Fair Economy, and Lapham, a co-founder of UFE's Responsible Wealth project, argue that the self-made myth absolves our economic leaders from doing anything about inequality, frames fair wages as extortion from deserving producers, and turns the social safety net into a moral hazard that can only promote laziness and sloth. They argue that progressives need to overwrite this fiction with the far more supportable idea of the "built-together reality," which points up the truth that nobody in America ever makes it alone. Every single private fortune can be traced back to basic public investments that have, as Warren Buffet argues in the book, created the most fertile soil on the planet for entrepreneurs to succeed. 
Read it at AlterNet
The Self-Made Myth: Debunking Conservatives' Favorite -- And Most Dangerous -- Fiction
by Sara Robinson | editor of AlterNet's Vision page


Matt Franko said...

Ryan's speech this am at Georgetown was peppered with this type of BS.


Greg said...

This was the first site I looked at after getting home from work today. I spent much of the day thinking about a post of my own around this self mad man myth. Imagine my surprise when this post is at the top of the page when I open it.

Tom, you should be very concerned if you are on the same wavelength as me.

Anonymous said...

Funny how there is always an appeal to Horatio Alger when even stories about him don't even support his legend for example:

[...] Though Frank was so near the end of his money, he had something to look forward to in his approaching interview with Mr. Percival. He had been able to do this gentleman a service, and it was not unlikely that the capitalist would wish to make him some acknowledgment. Frank did not exaggerate his own merits in the matter. He felt that it was largely owing to a lucky chance that he had been the means of capturing the bond robber. However, it is to precisely such lucky chances that men are often indebted for the advancement of their fortunes.

John Fremont

Pete said...

The only thing the state can do is use force.

How can the state benefit people using force? Only by taking from some and giving to others, on net.

Yes, an individual can aggrandize themselves or be aggrandized by the state, but it comes at a cost that falls on others on net, which is typically millions of others since money is fungible.

The self made man is impossible in a society with state intervention, the same way a free man is impossible in a prison. It doesn't mean that the state is a requisite for the man to be made.

"The state is that great fiction by which everyone tries to live at the expense of everyone else." - Frederic Bastiat.