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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

More Obamanoia

Several people on Facebook went ballistic when Obama gave his recent speech on how no person has succeeded entirely due to their own resources. There were remarks that his speech was socialist, and claimed that individuals don't accomplish anything. But look at this line:

"The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together."

See that: Individual initiative.

Stop acting like asses, OK?

(Thanks to Daniel Kuehn for posting more of this speech than the FB fear promoters.)

12 comments:

  1. That's a good point, Gene. Obama is correct in pointing out that we succeed by doing things together. I've long believed that libertarians err in emphasizing "rugged individualism" over cooperation, and that the latter is hindered by government (as we know it, coercive, monopolistic).

    I thought the most objectionable part of his speech was his setting up a false dilemma that the only alternative to individual action (that is, the only kind of group action) is government action. To Obama's way of thinking, the only alternative to each of us acting as our own personal fire department is to have the government provide fire-fighting services.

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    1. Larry, I don't see him saying that anywhere.

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  2. From his speech: "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."

    Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think he had private firefighting in mind, especially since all the other examples he mentioned (the GI Bill, the Golden Gate Bridge, Hoover Dam, the Internet, sending a man to the moon) were government initiatives.

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    1. Larry, I did not say that he doesn't recommend government actions or think government is the right solution to some things. But I don't see him saying that government is the *only* alternative to individual action. And if you asked him "Do you think government is the only alternative to individual action?" I bet he'd say "Of course not."

      Obama certainly recommended a bunch of government activity in that speech. But I think it was you who injected the either/or dichotomy.

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    2. Yes, if you asked him that, he would probably answer in the way you suggest. However, when you directly ask a demagogue a question, you are liable to get a different answer from the impression he wants to leave in the mind of his median audience member, who does not think things through very carefully.

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  3. I think Obama's line aroused the ire of conservatives because he suggested that the primary cause of entrepreneurial success was not the entrepreneur. That "somebody else made that happen", while true on many levels, is not fundamentally true.

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    1. Actually, once one susses out a vague pronoun reference problem, it's clear that what the "entrepreneur" didn't build, according to Obama, is the road network.

      But the real point is that the respective contributions of "the entrepreneur," the corporate structure in which the entrepreneur is embedded, and society are actually not disseverable. It's meaningless to say that the success of Heroic Capitalist Enterprise Zolkhoz is "80% thanks to 'THE entrepreneur' who 'built' it and 20% thanks to society," or "15% 'THE entrepreneur,' 30% everybody else in the company and 55% society" or whatever.

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    2. What Jim said. I don't see how it can be pulled apart what "mostly" caused any historical event.

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    3. "In civilized society it is indeed not so much the greater knowledge that the individual can acquire, as the greater benefit he receives from the knoweldge possessed by others, which is the cause of his ability to pursue an infinitely wider range of ends than merely the satisfaction of his most pressing physical needs. Ineed, a 'civilized' individual may be very ignorant, more ignorant than a savage, and yet greatly benefit from the civilization in which he lives." -Hayek (1973).

      Seems Obama's point can also find support in Hayek's perpetual reference to our necessary and deep ignorance, and to fragmentation of knowledge in modern society.

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    4. Of course, Hume, Walter Block thinks that Hayek is a "pinko," so this may just convince some people all the more that Obama is as well!

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    5. Actually Jim, the vague pronoun problem makes the passage *unclear*. It isn't clear he was talking about the roads and one can make a good case - as so many have - that he wasn't.

      Your point about the separation of the entrepreneur, corporate structure, and society is meaningless. What causes the change from a status of "no entrepreneurial success" to "entrepreneurial success"? You can have a free market, a society of individuals who respect rules and exchange, a corporation that allows internal startups, but none of these is enough. What you absolutely need, however, is the entrepreneur.

      Assigning percentages is misguided. Sure, if you created a universe and a baker made an apple pie, you'd get the lions share of the credit. However, we still understand that the baker is the creator of the pie.

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  4. Gene it was unfair of you to call those Facebook posters "asses." They didn't put up those comments about Obama; we all did.

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