By now you’ve probably seen all the rhetoric surrounding Obama’s “You didn’t build that” comment given in a speech a few days ago in Virginia. I’ve taken the time to read the full context of that comment, and have a few thoughts:
Obama’s intention (as I read it) was to indicate that without the infrastructure that government and the rest of society/humanity provides, businesses could not be built, much less thrive.
This sentiment belies a stronger emphasis on the society than on the individual, and springs from a socialistic attitude and bias. While it is true that many, many of the most successful businesses spring forth from the intersection of juxtaposed work of others (the internet + carpentry = sell plans for building furniture online), I strongly feel that businesses are built by people who can recognize and leverage opportunity – regardless of circumstances.
As long as humans have been roaming this planet, successful businesses have been, can be, and are built by individuals with the foresight, tenacity, and can-do attitude to build anything they want from the opportunities they see. People have been creating thriving businesses since long before the age of the internet, since before the US constitution was created, since long before the Spanish found the new world, since before the birth of Christ. In short, business in some form has been around about as long as people have been recording history on this planet.
In fact, I believe it is easy to argue that in modern America, people are able to build businesses in spite of, not because of government. Anyone who has hung out their own shingle knows the pain and frustration that taxes, governmental regulation, oversight, and intrusion can have on their business model and ultimate level of success.
One final thought: To hear anyone claim that the creator of a business is not responsible for their own success begs the question: If I didn’t build my business, would it exist? Would I be able to pay into the tax system? Would I be able to support other families by providing employment to others? Obviously, the answer is no – none of the benefits to the business owner, the employees, the government, and society would exist if the individual entrepreneur squelched the drive to thrive and didn’t build that business.
I ran across a superb editorial by Charles Krauthammer that sums up exactly how I feel far better than my feeble attempt above.