I rarely disagree with Russ Roberts at Cafe Hayek. But I disagree with what he wrote in one of his recent posts:
Many people have excoriated President Obama for suggesting that entrepreneurs can’t claim credit for their success.
It appears that many of these critics have taken the President’s remarks out of context. (Full text here.) Never mind. Even out of context, the critics are wrong and the President is right.
Of course no one creates a business on their own. And yes, government played an important role as the President suggested–creating the schools that educated your workers (often poorly, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt), the roads that your product traveled on, the bridges your trucks crossed, etc.
First, I disagree that the critics have taken his comments out of context. The two sentences of the President’s in question are:
If you’ve got a business. you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.
Adding the full context of his remarks doesn’t change the meaning of these two sentences.
He repeats the same point twice in two sentences. To be in line with the rest of the speech, these two sentences would have looked more like:
If you’ve got a business, you didn’t make that happen all on your own. Others helped you make that happen.
Second, I disagree with Roberts that even with the straightforward meaning of these two sentences, that the President is right. He’s not.
I do believe that we tend oversimplify success and I agree there is usually more to the story than somebody who made it all happen on their own.
But to agree with these sentences, “even out of context”, I do not.
Russ Roberts has written books. Certainly, he couldn’t have done that without the help of a lot of people. The ideas presented in those books were not his own. Russ didn’t make the paper or ink or printing presses. He probably had a copy editor and colleagues who read the manuscript and offered suggestions. And, while writing the book he drove a car made by others, over government bridges and typed on computers built by others.
No disagreement there.
However, without Russ Roberts, those books would not have happened. He DID build that and nobody else made that happen for him. He took all the same inputs available to rest of us and shaped them into something that wasn’t there before and added some value in the process.
I do agree with the key point of Russ’s post, however. Government spending is out of control. This is a problem that needs to be addressed. I don’t like the idea of feeding this problem by taking more from the most productive members of society.
Thomas Sowell stated the obvious here:
Did the taxpayers, including business taxpayers, not pay for that road when it was built? Why should they have to pay for it twice?
Let’s quit busting the balls of successful business people. They pay their share for government and they create products that create value for the rest of us.
It’s inconsistent to bust their balls and complain about lack of jobs at the same time.
It’s time we start holding our government officials accountable. Successful business people are held accountable by their customers. If they make valuable things, customers buy and generate profits. If business folks spend more than the take in consistently, they fail and go out of business.
When government officials spend more than they take in, they whine about the wealthy not paying their fair share so they can take even more from them and spend even more.
Why do we listen to them? Why can’t we look objectively at their spending records and realize they have been woefully irresponsible?
- Obama: “I Didn’t Say What You Heard Me Say” (nicedeb.wordpress.com)
- “Tell me at what point other people helping me made me your property.” -David Schmitz (ourdinnertable.wordpress.com)
- Government by Fallacy (ourdinnertable.wordpress.com)