One of the secrets of successful magicians on stage is directing the audience’s attention to something that is attractive or distracting, but irrelevant to what is actually being done. That is also the secret of successful political charlatans.
Consider the message directed at business owners by Senator Elizabeth Warren and President Barack Obama — “You didn’t build that!”
Assuming for the sake of argument that a man who owns a business simply inherited it from his father, what follows? That politicians can use the inherited resources better than the heir? Such a sweeping assumption has neither logic nor evidence behind it — but rhetoric doesn’t have to have logic or evidence to be politically effective.
The conclusion is insinuated, rather than spelled out, so it is less likely to be scrutinized. Moreover, attention is directed toward the undeserved good fortune of the heir, and away from the crucial question as to whether society will in fact be better off if politicians take over more of either the management or the earnings of the business.
The question of politicians’ track record in managing economic activities vanishes into thin air, just as other things vanish into thin air by a magician’s sleight of hand on stage.
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