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You Didn’t Build That!


 

Collectivism Across Party Lines

“There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own — nobody.” – Elizabeth Warren, campaign speech 2011

“If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”

– Barack Obama, campaign speech 2012

You Didn’t Build That!

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If you acquire any possessions by economic means, this is to say by your own efforts, serving consumers in voluntary trade, they actually do not belong to you, according to these two elitist leftist politicians (who you may be interested to learn, are far from poor).  Only what the State graciously allows you to own is yours – provisionally.

Photo credit: Matthew J. Lee / The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The Left is clear about their view. You do not get credit, and you do not own your business by right. When the government taxes you, taxes you some more, regulates you, and licenses you, it has the right. Because you didn’t build that.

As with so many issues, the Right seemingly opposes the Left. Certainly, there was outrage at the outright, open expressions of communist ideology from Warren and Obama.

But let’s drill a bit deeper. Let’s look at a litmus test to see if conservatives really believe that you own your business. Or perhaps they accept that you are a mere steward of the people’s resources, for the good of the people.

Can you hire or not hire anyone? After all, if you did build that, then it’s yours by right. And as a matter of right, you can decide who to hire. Right?

Not so fast. Here is what President George H.W. Bush, considered to be a conservative, said at the signing of the Americans With Disabilities Act in 1990:

“It will guarantee fair and just access to the fruits of American life which we all must be able to enjoy.”

This is a law forcing businesses to do what they did not agree to do. Who built that business again, Mr. Bush?

But this conservative does not think that way. He thinks of it as “access” to the “fruits of American life”. Access to what? Fruits grown by whom, Mr. Bush??

He continued:

“And then, specifically, first the ADA ensures that employers covered by the act cannot discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities.”

You Didn’t Build That!

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But this guy is a conservative, right? Surely he stands for small government and property rights? And no new taxes…:)

Photo credit: James A. Iii Baker

Clearly a mere steward has no right to hire based on his own preferences. Then he made it even more clear:

“Second, the ADA ensures access to public accommodations such as restaurants, hotels, shopping centers, and offices.”

Who built that? No matter! Mr. Bush declared your business to be “public accommodations.” And in his view, it’s the role of the government to grant people “access”—to force you to give it to them.

How far is the view of Mr. Bush from that of Ms. Warren and Mr. Obama?

OK who else, aside from the Conservatives and the Left, thinks you didn’t build that? Consider the following recent dialog:

“If we discriminate on the basis of religion, to me, that’s doing harm to a big class of people.” – Politician

“The Jewish baker should have to bake the cake for the Nazi wedding?” – Moderator
“That would be my contention.” – Politician

The politician is, of course, Libertarian Gary Johnson. He does not necessarily think that you built that business any more than Bush things it or Obama thinks it.

You Didn’t Build That!

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If Gary Johnson is a libertarian, then he is evidently  a  so-called “thick” libertarian – a sub-set of the libertarian movement that has decided to abandon strict application of the non-aggression principle by arguing that the State should impose “social justice”. As so often, this is a slippery slope, because soon there is nothing the State cannot legitimately do. The Rothbardian wing of the libertarian movement is appropriately aghast at this development.

Photo via thehill.com

Johnson sees the question in terms of whether “we” should discriminate. Who is this “we”? One is left to conclude that he means those people who really built your business. The public, presumably.

The Left may be more brazen, more willing to go there, more shameless in taking your business away from you.

First in theory, morally, by declaring that you are not a creator or hard worker or whatever it takes to build a business. Then in practice, by setting no limits to taxation, regulation, permits, and compliance.

However, the Right and even some Libertarians are on board the same boat. They may stick to humanitarian imagery. They typically prefer to couch their desire to control your business in more palatable terms. But government control of your business stinks all the same.

At the root, it necessarily comes back to the same principle. The only way to justify coercing you to “grant access”, the only justification to force a Jewish baker to serve a Nazi cake, is on grounds that it’s not really yours.

You didn’t build that, so shut up and let the government manage it for the benefit of others!

You Didn’t Build That!

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Who’s “we”? Appropriate applications of the term are when it is used as the pluralis majestatis (the royal “we”), or the pluralis modestiae we employ (also known as the pluralis auctoris) – the plural of humility, to be employed when a single person imparts knowledge to others, so as to soften the arrogance of gnosis.

 

 

This essay is a followup to my previous post, Antidiscrimination Law.

 

Image captions by PT

 

 

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Keith Weiner
Keith Weiner is president of the Gold Standard Institute USA in Phoenix, Arizona, and CEO of the precious metals fund manager Monetary Metals.
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