Second Inaugural Address

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If You Build It, They Will Come

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama was criticized for telling business folks “You didn’t get there on your own. . . . You didn’t build that.”

He meant something more than the truism that a successful businessperson functions not in splendid isolation but in cooperation with others, like employees and vendors (presumably compensated). He meant that successful people shouldn’t be so proud of their virtues. Also they must pay more taxes.

Surrogates yipped that Obama’s denigration of individual achievement wasn’t what it sounded like. But his inaugural address was more of the same. Charles Krauthammer calls the speech “an ode to collectivity,” with its stress not on voluntary associations but on coercive orchestration by the state. According to Obama, for example, “No single person can” do all the good things like build research labs and train teachers that we supposedly must do “as one people.”

Sounds like a glaring false alternative. David Boaz observes that “property rights, limited government and the rule of law”—under assault by Obama—are what we need to safeguard the voluntary cooperation critical to our progress and individual flourishing. I would add that we necessarily pay our own way as we engage in voluntary trade. We do “build that,” and so does the other guy.

Government can confine itself to protecting our rights in trade and otherwise leave us alone, or it can actively plunder our achievements. If the latter, we have less of what we built. Even though we did build that.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Seize the Epoch

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

President Obama was sworn in for a second term on Sunday, re-enacting the rite on Monday so he could leverage the attention of a traditional news day.

Obama makes a good speech. He intones “We, the People,” with a pause in the middle: “We . . . the People.” He tells us to seize the moment.

But I’m not at all sure he’s seizing — or sizing up — the facts. He says, “we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it.” As I understand it, those who do very well have increased in number. Many folks have moved out of the middle-income earning category into the upper regions. We’ve more millionaires now than ever — even adjusted for inflation. Their ranks aren’t exactly shrinking.

Many of us are struggling, though. And we struggle under the watch of a general “progressive” mindset. You can’t blame income trends on the “free market.” Though some sectors of the economy are pretty free — the important new technology sector, for instance, and much of consumer retail — the medical and financial sectors are heavily regulated and managed by government, and the housing market has been transformed by multiple government policy initiatives. And here, with these three institutions, is where we’ve taken the biggest hits.

And where some of the worst effects on the poorer amongst us can be felt — and where the biggest pro-rich policies can be seen. Think bailouts, for starters.

The Progressives long ago seized the epoch. The necessity of the moment is to seize it back from them. Their policies of government intrusion and management have rigged the game to get us where we are now.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.