Monday, July 16, 2012

Obama: Government, Not Business, Deserves the Credit

Remarks by the President at a Campaign Event in Roanoke, Virginia are already appearing on Facebook.

Judge Andrew Napolitano adds,

The president explains his beliefs:

"There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires."

There is a true premise to this argument, even though the conclusion (government deserves the credit) is false and evil.

Leonard Read pointed out over half a century ago that there isn't a single person on the face of the earth who knows how to make a pencil.

From scratch.

Mining the elements, lumberjacking, creating the paint, building the trucks and trains, and repairing the pencil-making machines. No one person can do it all.

The process of manufacturing anything depends on a global network of commerce and trade involving the Knowledge And Decisions of millions -- no, billions -- of human beings, operating under a division of labor, and overseen by the "invisible hand" of Divine Providence. Knowledge changes a billion times a day, with the changing prices of everything on earth, signaling the relative scarcity or abundance of natural resources and human labor. Every business that makes a decision based on this ever-changing knowledge changes everything for those who depend on the productivity of that business.

There is a difference between the "individualist" and the "survivalist." Obama doesn't understand the distinction.

True and Godly "individualists" cooperate with others, but they don't use the State to impose their will on others by force. They are not "isolationists." Individualist business owners are so grateful for the help they receive from an infinite chain of suppliers that they voluntarily pay them all out of their own pocket. They are happy to admit the truth of Obama's claim: "If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help...."

The question is, who organized the help?

Obama wants to give credit to the government. But the government had nothing positive to do with the manufacture of pencils, refrigerators, computers, and iPhones. Billions of people worked harmoniously, helping other businesses by doing business with other businesses, bringing the products to consumers around the world.

Who decided who would do what? Who decided how much help would be provided? Who made these decisions? Based on what knowledge?

Obama doesn't understand the answers to these questions, because he's a socialist.

Too many Americans are also socialists.

If we lived in the Soviet Union under totalitarian communism, and the Government Ministry of Shoes provided shoes to all the Soviet serfs, Obama -- and way too many Americans -- would be appalled at the very idea that the manufacture and distribution of shoes should be left to the "anarchy" of a "free market." They would ask these questions:

How could you? You are opposed to the public—and to poor people—wearing shoes! And who would supply shoes to the public if the government got out of the business? Tell us that! Be constructive! It's easy to be negative and smart-alecky about government; but tell us

who would supply shoes?
Which people?
How many shoe stores would be available in each city and town?
How would the shoe firms be capitalized?
How many brands would there be?
What material would they use? What material lasts?
What would be the pricing arrangements for shoes?
Wouldn't regulation of the shoe industry be needed to see to it that the product is sound?
And who would supply the poor with shoes? Suppose a poor person didn't have the money to buy a pair?

Obama doesn't know how these decisions are made by a global network of free trade. So he concludes that government central planners should do it all.

And he thinks they have!

Economist Murray Rothbard should have been in Roanoke to make this point to President Obama:

These questions, ridiculous as they seem to be (and are) with regard to the shoe business, are just as absurd when applied to the libertarian who advocates a free market in fire, police, postal service, or any other government operation. The point is that

the advocate of a free market in anything cannot provide a "constructive" blueprint of such a market in advance.

The essence and the glory of the free market is that individual firms and businesses, competing on the market, provide an ever-changing orchestration of efficient and progressive goods and services: continually improving products and markets, advancing technology, cutting costs, and meeting changing consumer demands as swiftly and as efficiently as possible. The libertarian economist can try to offer a few guidelines on how markets might develop where they are now prevented or restricted from developing; but he can do little more than point the way toward freedom, to call for government to get out of the way of the productive and ever-inventive energies of the public as expressed in voluntary market activity. No one can predict the number of firms, the size of each firm, the pricing policies, etc., of any future market in any service or commodity. We just know—by economic theory and by historical insight—that such a free market will do the job infinitely better than the compulsory monopoly of bureaucratic government.

 "How will the poor pay for defense, fire protection, postal service, etc.," can basically be answered by the counter-question: how do the poor pay for anything they now obtain on the market? The difference is that we know that the free private market will supply these goods and services

• far more cheaply,
• in greater abundance,
• and of far higher quality

than monopoly government does today. Everyone in society would benefit, and especially the poor. And we also know that the mammoth tax burden to finance these and other activities would be lifted from the shoulders of everyone in society, including the poor.

Obama goes way too far when he says, "If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen."

All of us who own or work in businesses made these things happen, not the government. And we are grateful to Divine Providence, not the messianic state, for our daily bread -- and the ovens that baked it.

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