Thursday, July 26, 2012

Actually, You Didn't Build It On Your Own

I find the whole "You Didn't Built That!" nonsense almost comical.  Never mind the reality that Gov. Romney is, as Jon Stewart says, deliberately misrepresenting Pres. Obama's speech.  Politicians make gaffes all the time, yet Pres. Obama didn't make one.  Bad grammar?  Sure.  Is bad grammar a "gaffe"?  No.

Here's a small dose of reality.

Whether you start a lemonade stand, or a small steel fabrication plant, or a dry goods store, you didn't do it on your own.  The idea for the business may well be yours.

You still need folks who agree with your contention that such a business might succeed.  They're sometimes venture capitalists or banks.  In his biography of John D. Rockefeller, Ron Chernow quotes Rockefeller on the necessity of open lines of credit with a series of banks as he expanded his wholesale business to include the newly discovered oil wells in northwest Pennsylvania.  Had those banks not kept open revolving lines of credit, what began as a typical distribution center for urbanizing America might well have ended up just one of hundreds of dead Cleveland businesses in the earl post-Civil War era.

If businesses succeed, they might go public, which is little more than moving from banks to individuals and groups in the constant search for investment capital to maintain and expand their businesses.

Then, of course, there are all those pesky government regulations, like state incorporation laws that shield individuals from fiduciary and civil penalty should the business go belly-up.

Then there's the physical infrastructure that allows businesses to connect with potential customers.  Not only are those constructed and maintained by public entities; very often, they are created by the state in an effort to create an environment in which businesses can achieve their goals.  The first fifty to sixty years of our Republic was a veritable orgy of investment in roads and canals, then railroads, connecting an expansive and expanding continental nation in order to make both governance and commerce easier and profitable.  Historically, the United States government levied exclusionary tariffs on foreign goods to promote the growth of domestic business and industry.

Finally, there's the public-as-customer, allowing businesses to sell to public entities their goods and services, from food and beverages to planes, trains, and automobiles.  Some enormous business entities exist solely on public largess; they are private corporations, but their only customer is the United States government.

This isn't "grade school Marxism", as some doofus said on FOXNews. This is grade school American civics.  President Obama should be applauded for reminding us that Ben Franklin was correct: We hang together or we hang separately.

Virtual Tin Cup

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