Say we have evidence that entrepreneurs can build roads, railroads, and other means of transport even without government-spewed largesse and macro-mismanagement.
Would President Obama tell us?
Considering the man’s wonted denigration of individual achievement, probably not. Why should mere track records put a damper on his lust to conclude that social cooperation as such, especially as shoved and molded by government, somehow renders individual achievement less pivotal or praiseworthy? “You didn’t build that,” not all by your little lonesome, the Discourager-in-Chief says of anyone too proud of personal accomplishment; government’s always been there to help, however hinderingly.
Turns out, though, that as historians Larry Shweikart and Burton Folsom detail in a recent article, we do “build that,” even roads, when allowed to. Nothing about getting from here to there is intrinsically gotta-be-made-by-government.
The authors observe that auto makers put cars in “almost every garage” long before the 1956 Highways Act. They “began building roads privately long before [governments] got involved.” Businessmen also helped build the first transcontinental highway in 1913.
Before the Civil War, railroads were built and financed privately. When government decided to push for transcontinental railroads, the only continent-spanning railroad to be consistently profitable was the only one not scooping federal stimulo-funding: James J. Hill’s Great Northern.
What about, earlier, Robert Fulton’s steamboat? Was the steamboat able to ride the rivers even before subsidies for canals?
Must airports be government-owned?
Read the whole thing.
You too, Mr. President. It is, after all, a brief brief. But if you are looking for longer accounts, complete with footnotes and citations of primary documents, they are available, too.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.