President Obama, who has no experience in the private sector, believes that running a successful business is a collective enterprise. The President recently told a group of supporters in Virginia that people who are successful in business didn’t make it on hard work and determination alone. To the contrary, their success is owed in part to the Government, which provides roads, bridges, teachers, and a helping hand. In short, the President said “If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own.”
What the President is trying to say is that Government is partly responsible for successful business ventures, and as such, it has a right to partake in the financial rewards. This worldview bothers me on three levels. First, Government already benefits from the success of businesses by collecting part of their earnings in taxes. The President would like to take a little more, and raise that tax rate, to compensate for Government’s helping hand. Second, when businesses fail the Government is nowhere to be seen. Most small business ventures don’t make it. The Government will let the entrepreneur take all the risk, but only partakes of the success, sort of like the bad in-law who only shows up to eat the Thanksgiving meal but never helps prepare it or clear the table. Last, it demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of how free markets work, and what makes America great. Across the country, men and women sacrifice their time, risk their financial futures, and strain their personal relationships, for a chance at a better life. They create jewelry stores and coffee shops out of nothing. They do this because they want better for themselves and their families. Their success doesn’t cost me anything. Nor do I claim that I am part owner because I pay taxes for roads and bridges that facilitate commerce. I’m happy for them. The President, and some of his supporters, somehow feel jilted.
Government creates nothing. What is does provide is a blank slate by staying out of the way and letting people reap the rewards of their dreams, labor, and sacrifice. People still come from all over the world, like Horatio Alger of yesteryear, for a chance at the American Dream. For the President to claim that roads and bridges and political stability entitle the Government to take credit for a successful business venture is like saying that because public schools teach kids to read, Government is responsible for the success of Harry Potter. Its nonsense, and most of us understand that.
I’m not sure where the President developed this mindset, but he might be better off reading more Horatio Alger and less Harry Potter. Even in the end, young Harry had to leave the fantasy world and come home.