Sometimes, a politician can take a difficult concept and make it easy for audiences to grasp. Others can take a fairly self-evident argument and turn it into … an insult. This week, Barack Obama exemplified the latter when he tried to underscore that economic success depends in some part on a free society, governed wisely. Instead, he told small-business owners that they didn’t have much to do with their own success, emphasis mine:
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business. you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.
Actually, had Obama not been so ham-fisted in his construction, he would have had a good point about the balance between liberty and the government that secures it. We do need to have roads and bridges and the like that allow sellers and buyers to find each other; we need some regulation to prevent fraud and theft, in order to make markets operate efficiently and honestly. Our system of constitutional self-government provides a framework that allows for enough governance to provide those necessary checks without becoming overbearing, and without government distorting those markets for the preferred outcomes of elites rather than the outcomes decided by voluntary associations in the marketplace.
Unfortunately, we have deviated far down the latter path for decades, and Obama wants to go even farther down a road that leads to economic stagnation and the stunting of liberty. That path also leads to the arrogance and ignorance on display when a politician who has never operated his own business or worked in any significant manner in the private sector tells people who took enormous risks to start their own businesses that “you didn’t build that” and “someone else made that happen.” Of course the business owner built the business and was primarily the one that “made it happen”; without someone willing to take the risk, businesses wouldn’t get built at all.
Obama took an opportunity to make a good point and booted it into the realm of clueless-elite satire. And he did it in a prepared speech. Whether or not it took a White House village to create that speech, Obama made it, and this Obamateurism, happen.
Got an Obamateurism of the Day? If you see a foul-up by Barack Obama, e-mail it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the quote and the link to the Obamateurism. I’ll post the best Obamateurisms on a daily basis, depending on how many I receive. Include a link to your blog, and I’ll give some link love as well. And unlike Slate, I promise to end the feature when Barack Obama leaves office.
Illustrations by Chris Muir of Day by Day. Be sure to read the adventures of Sam, Zed, Damon, and Jan every day!