Think Freely Media presents Common Sense with Paul Jacob

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.

By: Redactor


  1. Brian Wright says:

    Super fine oped, Pablo. You nailed the individual initiative value. Like Clint in High Plains Drifter, you can look behind you to the miscreant, saying, “You still here?”

  2. drrik says:

    The gorilla in the room of “you didn’t build that”, is not just that an individual should get much less credit for their accomplishment, but also that the government should get a much bigger cut to redistribute out of the success that an individual who has risked and succeeded managed to accumulate. Success is inherently OWED to the government, who redistributes it after taking a substantial cut “for their trouble”. Not enough to “give” back by growing a company or by providing security and stable jobs to the people that have risked by staying working for someone. Anyone that succeeds ends up obligated to the whole community, and at the rate the government is going, obligated to carrying the weight for 30 million folks that came here illegally as well.

    There is no limit on the amount that the government sets itself up to collect. Call it a duty, call it owed, call it an obligation. It is collected at gunpoint.

    There are inumerable folks that risked and sweated and spent their life savings and failed, and that picked themsleves up INSTEAD of dumping themsleves on the government dole to try again. But any that succeeded, the govnernment swoops in hat and gun in hand to collect. The obligation is never adequately met but escalates.

    In the meantime, the level of taxes goes up to where this is THE number one most onerous place in the world as far as tax penalty to businesses. And the regulations, same thing. THE most onerous place in the world. And the litigiousness. Number one again. Explains why neither Steve Jobs nor Bill Gates opined that they would have succeeded at starting their companies were they to do it today in America.

    There are numbers of people that are leaving to start their businesses in places where they will not just a better chance of success, but also where the country they are building in does not set up as an anchor around their neck and and is appreciative of the individual talent and that they CHOSE to manifest it there.

    The lib-progs are missing a golden opportunity with the border fence right now. They could build it and bill it as a major compromise that they are doing to keep our country safe. And win all kind of brownie points for their willingness to cooperate. Because a fence works both ways, not just to keep folks out. And, God forbid, but with the direction that the government is taking us, with an intrusive police/welfare state, we may be less than a generation away from finding a fence useable to keep the productive, educated, entrapreneurial people from leaving.

    George Bush saddled us with a tax penalty, charging Americans who decided to permanently part company with the United States a tax penalty of 50% of all their assets. Unclear if he was thinking that this was going to be so onerous that we would find it cheaper to stay here and fight for liberty and freedom. But it may be reaching a point where that is a relative bargain to be free of the “you didn’t build that” government.

  3. drrik says:

    When you start training people that nothing that they do was done by them, eventually you end up with a population who is not motivated to build anything. Or else the productive ones are hyper-motivated to leave.

    Then a fence would really come in handy.

  4. Edward Agazarm says:

    Mr Jacob,

    Surely you did not write such a fine article all on your own.

    Must have had someone from government helping you.

    An editor perhaps … from the U.S. depart. of information resources?

  5. Lynn A. Bloxham says:

    Drrik: I would agree with all you noted in your comments EXCEPT falling into the old saw of blaming immigrants for our problems. Legal or illegal there is a concerted attack by certain restrictionist groups to blame immigrants for all our problems, claim they use welfare, are all criminals etc. Please avoid maligning a hard working group of people and get the facts. Thanks for an otherwise good comment.

  6. Drik says:

    The immigrants from Mexico that skip the immigration process, mostly probably ARE hard-working. But we have an official U6 unemployment rate of around 15% and another 10% Americans underemployed. Those hardworking folks from Mexico ate not coming here to bring jobs for Americans. And the NET cost of each one is substantial, though it’s not broken out from the overhead.
    Now if we DIDN’T have repeat administrations that were making this a hostile place to run a business and we were unleashing or economy instead of crippling it, then more people would be an asset. More dependents just fuels Cloward-Piven end game. And I have no confidence in what will be implemented after.

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