“They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.”
Indeed, this excerpt from Obama’s recent rant in Roanoke was more than political fodder; it was an outline of his personal and economic philosophy. His core argument here—one adopted straight from Marx—is that success and prosperity are achieved on the backs of society, past and present. The extent to which this is true creates the moral authority to redistribute wealth in the way that companies distribute dividends to their shareholders. If one’s wealth isn’t earned, then one doesn’t really have a right to keep it. Of course, this is an easy sell to many who don’t see themselves in the successful category, as it grants them moral access to the fruits of their neighbor’s productivity.
But there are two glaring logical flaws here. First, the President is asserting that each of us is born with an unsolicited “loan” whose repayment schedule is aligned with his or her productive ability. Such a claim is illegitimate because it does not bestow upon the individual the right to accept to decline the loan. Like it or not, he or she is forever owned by the collective.
It’s true that some of us are born with “advantages” that others might not have, but this is the result of a productive and free society, not a loan to our kids. We build schools and pave roads because we want to enjoy a better world ourselves and pass along something better to the next generation. Put another way, the inheritance we enjoy as Americans is due in part to the quasi-capitalist system that has created it, and in part to the gift—not the loan—we received from our parents and others.
Second, let’s assume for the sake of argument that Obama is correct and that business success is owed to government. Where does he think government amassed the resources necessary to “invent the Internet,” hire the great teachers, or build the roads? Government merely extracts wealth from the private sector and spends it. It creates nothing. If you’re born with a debt then it’s to the private sector, not government.
But we cannot reject Obama’s claim completely. The US has drifted to a mixed economy of capitalism, socialism and fascism. The crony capitalism we see today is an outgrowth of this amalgamation. Here’s the irony. By definition, those who have profited on the backs of government and society are the crony capitalists. We should root out the corruption that has unfairly benefitted firms like GE and GM, not hold them up as evidence that “business needs government.” Obama has this backwards.
The blessings of our country can be attributed to individual and business successes independent of government. When individuals have the freedom to create, compete, and retain the lion’s share of any profits earned in the process, they work harder, smarter, and more productively. They build cars, invent computers, and discover new treatments for dreaded diseases. Obama is fundamentally changing this system by creating a system where individual and business prosperity depends on government regulation, planning, or “investment.” It’s no wonder that our economy has grinded to a halt.