President "You Didn't Build That"
I agree with the WSJ 's conclusion that the president revealed the soul of his campaign message in his recent Roanoke speech. It's perhaps one of the most flagrant attacks on justice -- on the very idea of earning one's way, of achieving and thus deserving one's values -- that we've ever seen in presidential politics. And as such, it might be a low-point in anti-Americanism.
The battlelines are thus clearer than usual, and it's important that this be brought to the forefront for the entire political season.
To assist in this, I've collected some of the better commentaries and sites here:
- Perhaps my favorite column is by Rich Lowry, including this segment:
The Obama riff is a direct steal from Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic Senate candidate in Massachusetts who sent liberal hearts aflutter by throwing the same wet towel on the notion of individual success a few months ago. The Obama/Warren view is a warrant for socialization of the proceeds of success. Behind its faux sophistication is a faculty-lounge disdain for business, and all those who make more than tenured professors by excelling at it. Behind its smiley we’re-all-in-it-together façade is a frank demand: You owe us.
For that most American figure of the self-made man, exemplified most famously by Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln, President Obama wants to substitute the figure of the guy who happened to get lucky while not paying his fair share in taxes. What a dreary and pinched view of human endeavor. What a telling insight into his animating philosophy. In his Virginia remarks, greeted with warm applause, Obama took down a notch anyone who has made it: “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.”
True enough, and we should value the dignity of all work, no matter how humble. But the hallmark of the man of extraordinary accomplishment isn’t simply work. Some of us may work as hard as Steve Jobs. Few of us are as single-minded, risk-taking, shrewd, or visionary. Millions of us could work twelve-hour days for years yet never come up with the idea for the iPad, let alone successfully manufacture and market it.
To redefine Steve Jobs as the product of the (necessary and unremarkable) infrastructure and government services around him is to devalue human creativity. The Obama formulation goes something like this: Steve Jobs couldn’t get to work every day without roads; he couldn’t drive safely on those roads without a well-regulated system of driver’s licenses; ergo, the San Jose, Calif., DMV practically built Apple.- Here's a site dedicated to various pictures of personal achievements which the president denies (from which I shared the two photos here).
- Alex Epstein weighs in here, including this paragraph:
The fact that builders benefit from others in a free society does not mean that they should be forced to “give something back.” It means we should all treasure living in a free society, and fight to make it freer. But if we are going to talk about who owes whom the most gratitude, then we should recognize that the biggest builders are owed the most. They have not only financed the lion’s share of government, they have, more importantly, created the most enduring achievements. When I think of whom I owe gratitude to, it is individuals like Steve Jobs, not the millions of patrons of America’s welfare state.- Another worthwhile editorial includes this insight:
Yet on another level, the president's little lesson is self-evidently absurd. Lots of people attend public schools and have teachers. Very few people become Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. Everybody uses the roads and bridges the factory owner uses to bring his products to market. But not everyone builds a factory.
The tax dollars that paid for those roads, bridges, schools, and teachers didn't just come from "someone else" or the "rest of us." They came from the innovators, the factory owners, and the entrepreneurs too. In 2009, the top 400 taxpayers paid almost as much in federal income taxes as the entire bottom 50 percent combined.- Even milquetoast Romney got roused up (including my favorite line: "President Obama attacks success, and therefore under president Obama we have less success."). (Of course his insistence on rights being god-given is very worrisome.)
- Burt Folsom reminds us that for the most part, not only does the Federal Government not help businesses, it often targets them, including by various subsidies to competitors.
I'll conclude the list with an excerpt from Atlas Shrugged that is also making the rounds:
“He didn't invent iron ore and blast furnaces, did he?”
“Rearden. He didn't invent smelting and chemistry and air compression. He couldn't have invented his Metal but for thousands and thousands of other people. His Metal! Why does he think it's his? Why does he think it's his invention? Everybody uses the work of everybody else. Nobody ever invents anything.”
She said, puzzled, “But the iron ore and all those other things were there all the time. Why didn't anybody else make that Metal, but Mr. Rearden did?”(Feel free to suggest other good links and commentary in the comment section.)