Thomas Sowell
Barack Obama's great rhetorical gifts include the ability to make the absurd sound not only plausible, but inspiring and profound.

His latest verbal triumph was to say on July 13th, "if you've been successful, you didn't get there on your own." As an example, "Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business -- you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen."

Let's stop and think, even though the whole purpose of much political rhetoric is to keep us from thinking, and stir our emotions instead.

Even if we were to assume, just for the sake of argument, that 90 percent of what a successful person has achieved was due to the government, what follows from that? That politicians will make better decisions than individual citizens, that politicians will spend the wealth of the country better than those who created it? That doesn't follow logically -- and certainly not empirically.

Does anyone doubt that most people owe a lot to the parents who raised them? But what follows from that? That they should never become adults who make their own decisions?

The whole point of the collectivist mindset is to concentrate power in the hands of the collectivists -- which is to say, to take away our freedom. They do this in stages, starting with some group that others envy or resent -- Jews in Nazi Germany, capitalists in the Soviet Union, foreign investors in Third World countries that confiscate their investments and call this theft "nationalization."

Freedom is seldom destroyed all at once. More often it is eroded, bit by bit, until it is gone. This can happen so gradually that there is no sudden change that would alert people to the danger. By the time everybody realizes what has happened, it can be too late, because their freedom is gone.

All the high-flown talk about how people who are successful in business should "give back" to the community that created the things that facilitated their success is, again, something that sounds plausible to people who do not stop and think through what is being said. After years of dumbed-down education, that apparently includes a lot of people.

Take Obama's example of the business that benefits from being able to ship their products on roads that the government built. How does that create a need to "give back"?

Did the taxpayers, including business taxpayers, not pay for that road when it was built? Why should they have to pay for it twice?


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate