Wow, We Didn’t Build it, In the Correct Context

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.  The Internet didn’t get invented on its own.  Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

     The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.  There are some things, just like fighting fires; we don’t do on our own.  I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service.  That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires. 

Obama has caught a lot of flak for saying, “You didn’t build that”. In context though, which Republicans ignore, the meaning was quite different. Without a teacher, without roads, bridges, your business would be quite somewhat impossible. Business uses the Internet. A lot of work went into its fabrication. Government research, supported by taxpayer dollars, helped to create the internet. Success derives from personal initiative, but not solely because of it.

If the infrastructure, to which all of us, all of us taxpayers, contributed our part, did not exist; then business would have no way to manufacture goods (electricity), to transport goods (roads, trains), and no plumbing (water systems).

Obama was merely saying that without the support of everyone, the individual can’t build a business. So, lay off him already.


 

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3 Responses to Wow, We Didn’t Build it, In the Correct Context

  1. Fred Levins says:

    There is an interesting aspect of this story that has not received much attention. The “You-didn’t-build-it-by-yourself” theme first serviced in a marked way during last summer (2011) in a gathering in Andover, Massachusetts. About 150 people showed up to hear Elizabeth Warren talk about her interest in running for the US Senate. Warren was unaware that she was being informally videotaped by some of those in attendance. Someone put their recording of Warren’s remarks, which were delivered with substantial energy that sometimes drifted into angry tones, on You Tube. It received nearly a million views. Unfortunately, people at the edges of the crowd couldn’t hear her, and they kept urging her to increase the volume. The result was publicity that fell substantially short of a polished, carefully managed presentation.

    These facts are detailed in a New Yorker article which can be found by searching for “The Professor: Elizabeth Warren’s long journey into politics.” It was published in the issue dated September 17, 2012, and it was written by Jeffrey Toobin, a veteran writer on legal affairs for the New Yorker.

    I do not know if there is an antecedent to Warren’s remarks that is along the same lines. In any event, Warren articulated then an important viewpoint common among those who call themselves Progressives. Eventually, starting in Virginia in June 2012, Obama incorporated the thought into one of his own stump speeches.

    Although you need to be a subscriber to read the whole nine-page article, which is quite interesting for news junkies such as myself, anyone can read the abstract without cost. The abstract documents the you-didn’t-build-it-by-yourself connection.

  2. drenn1077 says:

    So, she is accused of defending the welfare state, when nothing of the sort occurred. Well, at least she wasn’t accused of advocating socialism.
    The statements, all of them, were true. In the context of both Elizabeth Warren’s remarks and Obama’s speech, the “Didn’t Build it” phrase was absolutely true. No business built itself without a supporting infrastructure of trained workers, roads, and all the modern necessities of business. However, in time of elections, when the campaigning rhetoric rises to inflammatory levels, even the smallest opening is taken advantage of and exaggerated.

    On another note: Welfare. I do not advocate a welfare state, having said that, In my opinion, Capitalism without some socialist programs mixed in would be stark and compassion-less. I do not consider Social Security a socialist program as we all pay into from day one to day last. We earned that, despite the fact we may live long enough to draw more than we ever put in. If the government had handled the funds in a business like manner instead of as some sort of pyramid scheme it would not be in the trouble it is now.

  3. Fred Levins says:

    On September 11, 2012, the Mansfield News Journal published an article entitled, “Romney on point during Ontario visit.” Comments were posted concerning the significance of the supportive elements in a community that businesses require to function. I wrote a post dated September 11th, 6:48 PM, which was a response to a post by James Streib. You can still read the comments posted for that article online. Here is the text of my post, which incorporates an excerpt of the posts by James Streib:

    …………………………………………….
    Fred Levins • Top Commenter • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

    James Streib: In my view, with respect to public infrastructure and public services, which are – admittedly — very important, credit goes first and largely to taxpayers, especially those in the private sector, who put more into the public treasuries than they withdraw.

    The private sector is the golden goose upon which our most prosperous periods have been based.

    James Streib: “I thank all businesses both Democratic run or Republican run, NOT the federal government, they only spend what they take, or are given…they have provide NOTHING on their own merits.”

    Thank you, James, for stating this, which I believe is the heart of the matter. I fully agree with this key point.

    However, at least one aspect of the role of the public sector employees who provide critically important services deserves attention. The work performed can be done either well or poorly, either with integrity or in a corrupt manner. Public sector employees, when dedicated and performing their work with integrity, deserve to be recognized. Similarly, public infrastructure is the product of the efforts of the collaboration of public employees, such as those at municipal and state engineering and utility departments, and private contractors. Those public employees – equipment operators, construction workers, administrators, engineers, and others – deserve recognition for well performed work, because in some countries is not up to the standards we enjoy. Although I feel that public sector workers are compensated, for the most part, with salaries, wages, and benefits that lead to the positions being an attractive form of employment with vacancies readily filled, the good they contribute occurs in diverse, countless ways that are not explicitly recognized, nor rewarded, except in rare instances.

    • September 11 at 6:48pm

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