Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.

In a recent speech Obama made the statement that implied business owners didn't build their businesses -- "someone else made that happen"

I'm going to put the full text and context of what was said because I've seen left-wing writers trying to diminish what Obama said by claiming it was taken out of context.

So here's the full context:

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. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. 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. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.

This is a view held by many liberals -- mostly ones who have never actually made payroll.  The argument goes as follows:
 
The liberal argument in a nutshell
 
Your business can only thrive because it exists in a country with good infrastructure, an uncorrupt court system, property rights enforced by the government, free education for you and your work force and even the Internet itself was started as a government endeavor. Therefore, you owe your success to the government.
 
This can be boiled down to saying that you didn't really draw that picture with that pencil. Something else made that happen -- a tree.
Lots of people have "built a house". Yet, I don't think I've ever heard someone correct someone who has said "Yea, this is the first house we've built" to remind them "No, you didn't build that, someone else did -- carpenters, brick layers, etc."
 
Why it's nonsense
 
First off, the President's argument is a strawman. I've never met an entrepreneur who thought they succeeded because "they were just so smart". Intelligence isn't even a key ingredient in being successful.  The fact that Obama said this indicates to me that he hasn't even bothered to read an article on the topic because what makes someone a successful business builder is an oft-covered topic.
 
To recap, here are the key ingredients in being a successful entrepreneur:
 
1. Risk taking.  This is the single biggest element that differentiates an entrepreneur from everyone else. I have had (And lost) friends over the years who just couldn't understand how I, someone they considered inferior to them in terms of intelligence, polish, people skills, etc. became so financially successful.  The key difference - risk.  I was willing to risk losing everything I had to pursue a dream.
 
2. Perseverance.  Very few business owners meet success right away. I know I sure didn't. My first major entrepreneurial endeavor was to write an OS/2 game called Galactic Civilizations. And I didn't make a dime on it because the publisher never paid royalties. It cost me not just 2 years of my life but one of my best friends who felt very burned by the whole thing.  It requires years and years of sustained hard work to become successful in most cases.  
 
3. Delayed gratification.  This is another non-obvious and yet crucial ingredient to success.  While my friends were getting sports cars, DVD players (back in the early 90s a big expense), and putting down payments on their first houses, I was driving a Chevette, owned no stereo or other consumer gadgets and lived in a tiny apartment.  This meant I could focus my very limited financial resources into the business. I went without, for years, to pursue a longer term goal.
 
That's it.
 
Those are the 3 key things. Note that "being smart" isn't one of them.  
 
None of those 3 skills I developed were because of the government. If credit can be given they can be given to society. But society is not government.  Culture is not government. The values my mom drilled into me and the ideas my dad, uncle, etc. gave to me have nothing to do with the government.
 
It was our society -- our culture, that includes a respect for the rule of law, property rights, and a general "can do it" spirit. Our government (historically) is a reflection of our society. Government doesn't create culture.
 
Government services are not an "investment"
 
Yes, I had some really great teachers growing up.  My 5th grade teacher made a huge difference in my life.  I had a high school English teacher who made me the editor of our literary magazine which gave me the confidence in myself. Public schools, paid for by tax payers. Taxes my parents paid on my behalf while I was growing up and then taxes I paid myself when I started working when I was 15. This does not take away the importance of education or any of the other important public goods I benefited from.
 
A person does not owe another person anything beyond the agreed upon price for a product or service.  If a man sells you a hammer that you use to build something, the hammer seller has no claim on what you build with it. He made a trade with you that both parties thought was equal. He was not investing in you with the expectation that he had some claim to what you created.
 
The government has no money other than the money it extracts from its citizens. We have no moral obligation to the government in itself anymore than you have a moral obligation to your power company or cable provider. It provides a set of services to us that have been agreed on by our elected representatives and we pay for those services through taxes.  
 
Government has no more claim on anything we do that makes use of those services than a tree has a claim on what you create with a pencil.

Comments (Page 3)
on Jul 27, 2012

Reminds me of the parents who think their kids should be indebted to them for 'all they've done for them'.  Well, if you've spent 18 years with me, and haven't given me any reason to love and respect you, I don't think I owe you much at all.  It's a last ditch effort to exert control over someone - call something that isn't really a debt a debt, and make them owe you.

on Jul 27, 2012

Jythier
Reminds me of the parents who think their kids should be indebted to them for 'all they've done for them'.  Well, if you've spent 18 years with me, and haven't given me any reason to love and respect you, I don't think I owe you much at all.  It's a last ditch effort to exert control over someone - call something that isn't really a debt a debt, and make them owe you.

Wow...well leaving aside your issues with the parents that fed and clothed you for 18 years, your statements in relation to the country that provides you and your community with innumerable services that everybody pays for doesn't make sense.  So you're saying that because you don't appreciate everything (or perhaps anything) America does for you, you shouldn't give it any credit, basically.  Well too bad me bucko, because facts are facts and our economy is intrinsically tied to our infrastructure.  When a city's electrical grid goes down, then the businesses in that city collectively lose millions every hour, same with internet, or bridge access for goods.  We all paid for it, and frankly we should be doing so much more.  Like would it freaking kill us to finally bury ALL of our power and telecommunications lines?  Labor is way cheap right now, and it'd save us untold millions year after year in maintenance and loss-avoidance.  Pay for it with reduced oil subsidies...Bam!  Done.

on Jul 27, 2012

Well you have convinced me, FunkMaster.

I vote that we insist that the federal budget concern itself exclusively with infrastructure, defense, and education.

I look forward to a huge tax cut now that we can get rid of things that have absolutely no net benefit to businesses.

on Jul 27, 2012

Every business is enabled by what preceded it (speaking of neon-green buffaloes).  But no business is organized around the principal that future businesses (or individuals, for that matter) owe them anything beyond payment for services or goods.

What about 'infrastructure' requires us to assume that we 'owe' anything to those who created it, who did so in their own self-interest?  We 'owe' the idea of roads to the Romans.

You're mischaracterizing my assertion.  I'm not talking about future businesses or owing anything in particular to those that created it out of their own self-interest.  I am instead claiming that business needs infrastructure at both the local, national and global scale today to operate, which is plain to see, which is what President Obama was saying.  In point of fact, the president WAS and still is being quoted out of context in order to make it sound as if the President was saying that "you didn't build your business", not "you didn't build the infrastructure that your business depends on".  

Setting up straw-man arguments that are easily defeated may be a lot of fun, but it doesn't prove anything.

on Jul 27, 2012

Draginol
Well you have convinced me, FunkMaster.

I vote that we insist that the federal budget concern itself exclusively with infrastructure, defense, and education.

I look forward to a huge tax cut now that we can get rid of things that have absolutely no net benefit to businesses.

 

Hey Draginol, I gotta say your message started of great.  Really strong beginning there.  Heh.  And if you're willing to be a little flexible on your "infrastructure" category to include cool things like grants for installing American-built solar panel systems and the like, you may have yourself a winning argument all around.

 

on Jul 28, 2012

Where don't they have roads and bridges?

on Jul 28, 2012

TheFunkMaster
In point of fact, the president WAS and still is being quoted out of context in order to make it sound as if the President was saying that "you didn't build your business", not "you didn't build the infrastructure that your business depends on".

Nothing was taken out of context, nothing was 'twisted'.  The straw man here is your attempt to convince us he meant something other than his plain, directly quoted, words. In fact, watching the full video makes it even more clear he meant exactly what he said.

But let's concede, for purposes of argument and only for a moment, that he meant what you've read his mind to mean.  That still leaves the cart way ahead of the horse.  It's only thanks to economic activity ("business") that money can be confiscated in the form of taxes and put to use for the purposes of infrastructure beneficial to enabling a higher standard of living or providing for the protection of people and property - things like sewage treatment, provision of potable water, refuse collection, fire departments, police departments - that by their very nature are best achieved through voluntary government structures.  That future generations end up being beneficiaries of such infrastructure projects is part of the very reason they are undertaken in the first place.

There is no point in time when what creates a better future is "done" & now needs to be "paid back" - even just a little bit.

on Jul 29, 2012


Quoting TheFunkMaster, reply 34In point of fact, the president WAS and still is being quoted out of context in order to make it sound as if the President was saying that "you didn't build your business", not "you didn't build the infrastructure that your business depends on".

Nothing was taken out of context, nothing was 'twisted'.  The straw man here is your attempt to convince us he meant something other than his plain, directly quoted, words. In fact, watching the full video makes it even more clear he meant exactly what he said.

But let's concede, for purposes of argument and only for a moment, that he meant what you've read his mind to mean.  That still leaves the cart way ahead of the horse.  It's only thanks to economic activity ("business") that money can be confiscated in the form of taxes and put to use for the purposes of infrastructure beneficial to enabling a higher standard of living or providing for the protection of people and property - things like sewage treatment, provision of potable water, refuse collection, fire departments, police departments - that by their very nature are best achieved through voluntary government structures.  That future generations end up being beneficiaries of such infrastructure projects is part of the very reason they are undertaken in the first place.

There is no point in time when what creates a better future is "done" & now needs to be "paid back" - even just a little bit.

 

Well, you could certainly take "what creates a better future" in stages...but that aside, yes the maintenance and improvement of America's multiple backbones is an ongoing affair, but one that pays back monster-sized dividends.  In a way is is continually being "payed back" and renewed with each road crew shift and new fiber-optics run.

To beleaguer the point for a moment, the "paying back" refers to the business owners whose businesses have directly profited from good infrastructure paying their taxes to help support and expand said infrastructure.  Thusly the Great Circle of Asphalt and Copper is and should always be.  All taxes that businesses/owners pay is "paying it back", (and if I may anticipate what our next point of contention might be) but our President wants those same very successful Americans to pay a bit more to help out when America is having a tough time.  The $250K or $500K tax would tax individual income tax after $250,000 (or whatever multiple they settle on).  Any individual or couple that makes over $250K that can't afford an extra 4.something percent when individual income tax is at it's lowest rate in the modern era has some jacked-up priorities.  

"Expand the tax base instead!" they say, which means "Make more poor people pay!", a few hundred dollars either way can make a big difference to many low-income working households these days.  One less ivory back-scratcher vs. 4 sets of braces.

on Jul 29, 2012

TheFunkMaster
"Expand the tax base instead!" they say, which means "Make more poor people pay!", a few hundred dollars either way can make a big difference to many low-income working households these days. One less ivory back-scratcher vs. 4 sets of braces.

The point is not to "make poor people pay more" - it's to enable poor people to earn more.  An economy perceived by the populace as conducive to success moves people from the tax-consuming rolls to the tax-paying rolls.  That's what's meant by "expanding the tax base".  With few exceptions, people want to succeed financially.  Having 46-47% of the population paying no net income taxes is unsustainable.  We have to find a way to reduce that number.  The appeal that "we're all in this together" falls flat when nearly half are in fact not "in it" at all. 

Furthermore, Obama's words have a subtle mafiosi ring to them, nearly threatening, amounting to - "Nice little business you got there.  Be a shame if somethin' happened to it.  Look, just pay us what we want, we'll let you operate & you'll have no problems."  As an aside, this sort of mindset, that we live and work at the pleasure of the government, is at the root of Menino's idiocy with Chik-Fil-A, which is nothing more than a Mafia Boss dispensing favors & busting balls.

on Jul 29, 2012

TheFunkMaster
To beleaguer the point for a moment, the "paying back" refers to the business owners whose businesses have directly profited from good infrastructure paying their taxes to help support and expand said infrastructure.

One of the flaws in such an idea is that it is non-reciprocal.  No business "directly" profits from infrastructure.  What about all the businesses which fail, the ones infrastructure "didn't do shit for"?  Should an individual who sunk his money and sweat equity into a business which failed, but who paid taxes along the way, demand some of his money back?

Just as some things are simply "the cost of doing business", infrastructure is simply "there", to be used to good advantage by us all.  Or not.

on Jul 29, 2012

The whole idea is upside down.  The people who actually "didn't pay for that" directly "profit" from that infrastructure, too, in your construct.

on Jul 31, 2012


One of the flaws in such an idea is that it is non-reciprocal.  No business "directly" profits from infrastructure.  What about all the businesses which fail, the ones infrastructure "didn't do shit for"?  Should an individual who sunk his money and sweat equity into a business which failed, but who paid taxes along the way, demand some of his money back?

Just as some things are simply "the cost of doing business", infrastructure is simply "there", to be used to good advantage by us all.  Or not.

That's where you're wrong, just about every business "directly" profits from infrastructure.  I don't know how else to describe the plastics factory that can't run without power, or the call center that absolutely could not make due without internet and phone lines.  These things are just so integral to our lives and businesses that we don't think about them until they're gone.  Infrastructure is certainly not "simply there"!  It must be upgraded, repaired and redesigned over time, and it ain't cheap baby.  That's why there's a whole sector of our economy that deals solely with infrastructure maintenance.  The country that forgets that has a whole lot of power outages and bridge collapses to deal with.

Even more shocking than your claim that infrastructure is just there is your notion that because some businesses fail that they should be able to extract their tax money back, because it didn't do shit for 'em.  Well, what would you say to a parent that's got a stupid kid, or just a kid that doesn't do their schoolwork?  Should that parent get all the property taxes they paid into the school system?  Apparently that school didn't do shit for their kid, and why should we concern ourselves with who went wrong...just gimmie my money back?  Just because a business failed doesn't mean their infrastructure didn't do shit for 'em...maybe they can't handle money, maybe they spent all their profits snorting coke off of a Scandinavian hooker's thighs (that little pitfall claimed my first four businesses...watch out!)?  Surely we're not gonna blame the highways for that?

How is it that America has forgotten one of the largest things that made us great?  ...besides killing Nazis...the other thing. 

on Jul 31, 2012

TheFunkMaster
That's where you're wrong, just about every business "directly" profits from infrastructure.

Yeah, tell that to the businesses closing because of skyrocketing energy prices and "green" regulations.

 

TheFunkMaster
Any individual or couple that makes over $250K that can't afford an extra 4.something percent when individual income tax is at it's lowest rate in the modern era has some jacked-up priorities.  

I love when the left tells people what they can and can't afford, and what they *should* pay.  Billions and billions wasted on green loans to Obama campaign donors, but yeah, lets raise taxes.

 

on Jul 31, 2012

TheFunkMaster
One less ivory back-scratcher vs. 4 sets of braces.

And that's the liberal mindset.  Income redistribution.

 

on Jul 31, 2012

The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

I, too, was under the impression that the government created the internet so that "all the companies could make money off the internet."  yeah...

"The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together."

Not that difficult to buy into this statement... unless you read it in its context. 

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