When President Obama took to the campaign trail last weekend and launched his latest attack on business he inadvertently revealed his lack in understanding of the fundamentals regarding the relationship between business and government.
[I]f 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... 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.With these statements Obama is not simply saying entrepreneurs are dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants, a metaphor that refers to the intellectual pursuits of men that are built upon the knowledge and research of past thinkers. No, he is saying that without the government building schools, roads, police and fire departments businesses would not be able to succeed. Therefore the business owner does not owe his or her own success to their efforts, but instead they owe government for making it possible.
Based on previous statements Mr. Obama has made that were designed to create class division, one could argue the president is taking the old progressive idiom that people only get rich by exploiting the poor. Unfortunately for Obama and other progressives, history just doesn't bear out this theory.
The first brick laid street in the US was constructed until 1870 (completed 1873), in Charleston, West Virginia. It was built by Mordeci Levi using a method he invented. The project was personally funded by Dr. John Hale, Levi's business associate. Levi patented the method he developed for creating his brick paved road and displayed it in 1933 at the Chicago Fair. The first concrete paved street wouldn't be laid for another two decades after Levi set his first brick.
In 1891, Court Avenue in Bellefontaine, Ohio was constructed from concrete donated by the Buckeye Portland Cement Company and insured with a $5,000 bond. George Bartholomew, founder of the company, used a new cement product he developed to pave the road. The first highway, main road connecting two towns, was the Lincoln Highway and it wasn't built until 1913.
Meanwhile, the first automobile hit the market in 1769. The internal combustion engine was added in 1806. And Henry Ford released his Model T in 1908. These achievements in the auto industry represent nearly 150 years of innovation and ingenuity and what do they all have in common? They all occurred without the existence of government built roads. Yet, some how those business owners found a way.
In fact, the major effort to pave roads wasn't even something pushed for by the auto industry. It was the bicycle industry that formed the Goad Roads Movement (1870-1920) to lobby for the construction of non-dirt roads. Another business, created in 1817, built before the government built any roads. Yet, some how those business owners found a way.
When the pioneers cried "Westward Ho!" they ventured off into the untamed wilds. There were no police officers to safeguard their journeys. There were no fire departments to protect their homes. And there certainly were no governments to tell them how to set up their general stores, hotels, and saloons. Yet, some how they found a way.
When Wells and Fargo created American Express and the Wells, Fargo, and Company express shipping businesses they did not have police departments to rely on to protect their cargo as it moved west. Yet, some how they found a way.
Why is Obama's understanding of business fundamentally flawed? Because he believes that government services made it possible for business to succeed. However, history has proven that it is actually business that allowed government to succeed. It was successful entrepreneurs who created businesses and markets from nothing, created towns in the middle of nowhere, and generated economies that would eventually supply the tax revenue that would allow for the creation and expansion of government.
Mr. President, it seems that government you got there,you didn't build that. Business made that happen.