American Collectivism

In a speech in Roanoke, Virginia a few days ago the President made these remarks:

There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back.  They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own.  You didn’t get there on your own.  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.  (Applause.)

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.  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.

Mitt Romney and conservatives have hit back at this collectivist message. Romney said this:

The idea that Steve Jobs didn’t build Apple, that Henry Ford didn’t build Ford Motors, that Papa John didn’t build Papa Johns, that Ray Kroc didn’t build McDonalds, that Bill Gates didn’t build Microsoft. . . to say something like that is not just foolishness, its insulting to every entrepreneur, every innovator in America and it’s wrong

I guess Steve Jobs didn’t have scores of designers and engineers and marketers and supply chain experts helping him make Apple into the global company it is today. And Henry Ford never got help from anyone and he built every car by himself.

The conservative cry is that Obama’s remarks tell us his true vision for America.

Obama’s Creepy Collectivist Vision: You know the latent message here: You didn’t earn it.  So you have no right to it.  Since you have no right to it, “we”-the government-will take what we want.

Call me crazy, but when I heard (and reread) President Obama’s remarks I heard him praising “individual initiative” as well as recognizing how we’re all in this together. I know that collectivism apparently goes against everything that is “American” according to some conservatives (and apparently flies in the face of liberty), but it seems to me that the President is simply a realist.

Sure some individuals do great through determination and hard work, but no one became successful on his/her own, no one. Show me any one successful person and I can show you thousands who helped that person get to the height of their success. I guess that means you can color me a collectivist.

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