In 2012, President Obama caused an uproar among those of us who praise individuals for their individual achievements. Sneering at persons proud of their success, Obama stressed the truism that in a society, achievers get help from other people. On his short list of invaluable assistance: government’s helpful building of roads and other infrastructure.
Like many of us, Donald Boudreaux criticizes the president’s philosophical assumptions. But he adds that Obama is also wrong to imply that it’s government which makes most or all of the infrastructure on which we rely.
“[A] great deal of infrastructure is built privately. FedEx, for example, is infrastructure: It’s a combination of vehicles, warehouses, organizational knowledge and other specific capital that businesses and households rely upon to transport freight and packages. . . .
“Of course, FedEx isn’t a road or a bridge. But so what? FedEx, no less than a road or bridge, enhances our abilities to pursue our private goals. [I]nfrastructure isn’t only those things supplied by government.”
Moreover, we don’t benefit from government’s monopolization of the segments of infrastructure provision that governments do monopolize. If government hadn’t permitted competition in packages from UPS, Fed-Ex and others, Obama could have added “you didn’t ship that package” to “you didn’t build that road.” But how could this justify disparaging individual achievement, or be anything to boast about? Government’s commandeering of enterprises reduces quality and alternatives.
The answer to “You didn’t build that,” if and when it’s true, is: “Well, let us.”
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.