Friday, July 27, 2012

Who Made that Happen?

God Creating the Universe to Operate By Laws in a 16th Century Work

 The dust has mostly settled from the "You didn't build that" brouhaha, but I haven't found anyone on either official side who has got this story right.    When the major media and official leaders from left to right fail to mention the cardinal truth of an issue, that's when I get motivated enough to make time and write. 

By now we all know the Obama quote “If you got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen,” Obama said. "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."  He also said that if you were successful it did not mean that you were smarter or harder working than anyone else, because a lot of people are smart and work hard.  

His viewpoint is not an isolated one.  Famed economist Elizabeth Warren has expressed much the same thought.   The gist of it is since government provided infrastructure such as roads, bridges, education etc.. they have a claim on any wealth created by people who use that infrastructure.    Government deserves the credit.   The other side of the issue has shown America one small businessman after another who has put in long, hard hours.  They are understandably insulted at government's efforts to take credit for their personal success as part of a crude effort to strong-arm them out of even more of their earnings.  The individual should get the credit.

What America has experienced here is a clash of two world views, one is radical collectivism, and the other is radical individualism.    But there is a third viewpoint that was once more widely held than either of those perspectives.   Sadly, the world view that was dominant in Western Civilization for centuries languished without an advocate in the strife and controversy over this issue.    I 'd like to speak up for it here.

Before I do, let's address why the two other views represent extreme positions that don't reflect reality.   The collective argument is easy to dispense with.   Not only did government infrastructure come as a result of taxpayer wealth, but every citizen had access to that infrastructure.   Some made much of that opportunity, others did little or nothing with that opportunity.    The difference was not the infrastructure, but what the individual choose to do with that opportunity.   If some other infrastructure was in place, they could well have succeeded in that environment. 

And of course, those individuals who succeed have contributed the previously agreed amount of their earnings to support that infrastructure.   They use the roads, but they also pay gasoline and vehicle taxes, as do the customers they attract.   It is more certain that government infrastructure owes its existence to the taxpayers, while the claim that taxpayers owe their wealth to government infrastructure is more dubious.  The whole argument of the collectivists cannot withstand the slightest intellectual scrutiny, but then again its not meant to- it's only meant to sound enough like reason to give the moral coward an excuse to participate in the government money-grab.

All that applies moreso before our failing post-modern economy came along.  Now global corporations increasingly do owe their profits to government intervention on their behalf.    I don't dwell on this model here because it represents a parasitical consequence of collectivism rather than an example of individual achievement.   In other words, the only places Obama's arguments have merit is amongst the Solyndra's and J.P. Morgan's of this world.   These entities do owe the wealth they have to their connections to the political system.  It's true that government "made that happen" for them- at the expense of the rest of us.   But those aren't the ones the Resident is looking to loot.   These types rather will be among the intended beneficiaries of his proposed future looting.

But Resident Obama does make one point that rings very true.   None of us are completely responsible for our own success.    For every person who worked hard and succeeded, there are many who worked just as hard and failed.  Sometimes that's the same person at various stages of life, for example Hershey's founder Milton Hershey who went bust in the candy business five or six times before he hit it big.   Nor are those who are successful any smarter than a lot of other people out there.      His claim is true, but it only supports his collectivist position if one believes that the only alternative to his radical collectivism is the radical individualism posited by the other side.  

The classical western position was based on scripture.   It held that our choices mattered, but so did God's favor.    The rich and the powerful did not attain their lofty status solely by their inherent superiority, or by their own efforts.   Nor did they attain this status through the government's imposed collectivist benefits.   Ultimately it was not the state which provided the infrastructure, the environment, and yes even the lucky breaks, that were essential to their success.   Rather, it was a blessing of God.   It did not necessarily mean they were better than anyone else, just more blessed in respect to the success of their business ventures.  

In fact, the scriptures taught that material wealth and power were not always a blessing.   For some, it was a test of character which they failed, a means by which the corruption they desired might be completed in them.   For every just government which came to power to protect people's rights their came over the unjust a tyranny necessary to keep a lawless population from doing one another even greater harm.   

Consider please the superiority of this balanced view of credit for human achievement over either the radical collectivist or radical individualist view.    With the collectivist view, they can say "1,000 smart people worked hard, 100 made it big, and 900 did not.  Since you all got there through our infrastructure, we are going to take wealth from those who made it big and spread it out among you all.  We would have done the same if a different 100 had made it, so really this is just social insurance.  And remember, you could not have done it without us anyway."   

On the other hand, the individualist view leads quite naturally to the conclusion, "I did this on my own, validating my superiority and greater work ethic.  Why should I give, even voluntarily, to those in need?  Let them earn it like I did.   And since I have demonstrated my superiority over the ignorant masses, I and my peers, the ones who matter, should be calling the shots.  Why the commoners would be better off if we were in charge.."   Such arrogance leads to a fall, but unless the weakness in the philosophy is addressed a new batch of would be god-men will spring up in their place to work new elitist mischief.    Even legitimate private charity will suffer under such a doctrine, to be replaced by a pitiless social Darwinism which creates its own blowback.

On the other hand, the balanced position that everything an individual has is ultimately the result of God's blessing their efforts leads to an attitude of humility and charity on the part of the successful.   This mind-set will lead to increasingly better relations and respect among the classes rather than the escalating enmity which we now see.    It will also protect the individual successful person from government looting on behalf of collectivist goals, for it turns their use of force to achieve equality of outcome into a battle against the order established by God himself.     The traditional western view of achievement and wealth is the only one which can protect us from both tyrannies- the tyranny of the collective and the tyranny of the oligarchs.  


Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

The dust has mostly settled from the "You didn't build that" brouhaha, but I haven't found anyone who has got this story right. When the major media and official leaders from left to right fail to mention the cardinal truth of an issue, I get motivated enough to make time and write.

11:53 AM, July 27, 2012  

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