President says something silly

Posted by Deepish Thinker on July 19, 2012
Current Events, Economics, US Politics

The President has received a lot of Republican “feedback” on his statement that, “Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that.”

Leaving aside the astonishingly inept phrasing, the President’s larger point is not unreasonable.  If you own a successful business you do benefit from things the government provide (rule of law, security, infrastructure, healthy educated workforce, basic research, etc).  It is really the logic that flows from this obvious truth that differentiates the President form his Republican critics.

The President appears to believe that success flows from what the government provides.  Therefore the government is justified in taking the fruits of that success.

Republicans tend to believe what the government is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for individual success (even if they don’t generally state it in this way).  Therefore the government has only a limited claim on the earnings of successful individuals.

Beliefs about the relative importance of government have broader implications.

The President’s apparent belief that prosperity flows from government, implies that more government equals more prosperity.  From this viewpoint the cost of government is almost irrelevant.

The Republican view that things provided by government are merely one of the preconditions for prosperity leads logically to the focus on providing these things at minimum cost.

Unfortunately, we’re unlikely to see much thoughtful debate about the relative merits of these two viewpoints.   Hammering the President for the dimwitted quote above is much more fun.