In an under-analyzed section of his infamous “you didn’t build that” speech, President Obama effused:
[W]hen 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.
What does Obama mean by “together”? He means via government coercion.
Notice the false alternative he offers in regard to fire fighting services. Either we have a government-funded fire department, or everybody must have their own fire service. Being “on our own,” in Obama’s worldview, precludes people from engaging in voluntary, cooperative efforts toward a common goal, such as organizing and funding a neighborhood fire company.
The not-so-subtle premise behind Obama’s remarks is that without government forcing us to pay the government to create and run such things, there would be no firefighting services, roads, bridges, dams, schools, internet, charity, space programs, or basic scientific research. Therefore, whenever a task requiring cooperative effort is deemed important by government officials, government must force us to “do things together.”
In reality, of course, people voluntarily do and willingly fund many things together. Just look around. We see restaurants, sports teams, tech startups, private space programs, private schools, private roads, and countless other goods and services that people cooperatively produce.
The only services the government legitimately provides are those necessary to its proper function—that of protecting rights—services of the police, the courts, and the military. If the government were to do its proper job—and only its proper job—individuals, businesses, and cooperatives in the consequently free market would provide firefighting services, roads, bridges, dams, schools, and everything else they want or need, simply because they want or need it.
But not in Obama’s vision for America. What he means by his slogan, “You’re not on your own, we’re in this together,” is that individuals are not sovereign and that government must dictate the means and terms of their lives. If Americans were to embrace Obama’s vision for America, what would stop us from becoming “in this together” right down to Soviet-style mandatory career placement?
If Americans embrace Obama’s vision, we will one day wake up to find that there are few if any areas of life in which we are “on our own” to think and act on our own judgment, to choose our own goals and values, to choose our associations, to pursue our happiness.
Obama’s way is simply and clearly incompatible with the American way.
- “You Didn’t Build That”—Obama’s Ode to Envy
- Individualism vs. Collectivism: Our Future, Our Choice
- How Would Government Be Funded in a Free Society?
Creative Commons Image: Daniel Borman