False Dichotomies and You

So the actual quote from the speech, in context, is this: “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.”

Look, it’s pretty clear that he is talking about infrastructure, so don’t listen to the shrill right wing when they take this out of context of the speech. What they’re doing is setting up a false dichotomy: either the government built your business or you did it.

That’s idiotic. We all know the world is more complicated than that. But come ON. Think it through, folks.

If you’ve been a successful businessperson, it’s the height of arrogance to say you got their all on your own. You might have had the idea and fought tooth and nail and given your all to build your business, but without the canvas of a nation with a healthy-ish infrastructure, the painting of your successful business would not have happened. Without local governments being relatively uncorrupted, providing utilities and property available for businesses to use through a workable system, a culture of rule of law based upon a couple hundred years of rule of law, and plenty more, it wouldn’t have happened.

Is it actually impossible to accept that the USA’s 230+ years of experiment in liberty, with a central government that is, of course, increasingly ineffective, but that started out well enough to set the stage for businesses to still succeed (although it’s arguable that the central govt’s current trend is diminishing this ability), is part of a business’ success?

Remember, capitalism is a result of the system of governance set up in this nation, although you could also maybe accurately say the reverse.

It’s also the height of arrogance for a government’s chief executive to take all the credit, or really ANY credit, for your hard work, ingenuity, and life’s passion which you dedicated to creating a successful business. What a feckless and scary thing to say, especially considering the executive powers creep which has happened over the last 9 decades and which has done us very little good.

My concern is that I’m not sure that I’m not being too generous to the chief executive in question. Given a lot of the actions of several of the most recent administrations, I worry that those in power really think that central government is THE answer and is the only entity that can make a difference in people’s lives. History tells us that isn’t true.

The problem, really, is that we’ve become a nation that listens to the shrill people harp on the talking points that their writers have identified as the most quotable and memorable.

If you’ve griped about the president’s statement that “you didn’t build that,” fine. But did you listen to the entire speech so that you could be fully informed before you griped? If not, how does it feel to make a fool of yourself?

Listen, I’m not defending this man. Or maybe I am a little, but not much. I passionately dislike much of the political philosophy illuminated by the legislation this executive branch is championing and the executive privileges, orders, and appointments performed  over the last three years which have been in direct opposition to liberty.

But I’m not going to betray intelligence and clear-thinking in the interest of shoring up a constituency, getting heads to nod in blind agreement, or to be heard. I’m not going to let false dichotomies, which is often where the ubiquitous straw man arguments are born, distract me from truth and liberty.

I’m not sure if I’ve clearly said what was in my heart here. Let me know in the comments. Also, here’s a handy analysis of the speech for you: http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/DC-Decoder/Decoder-Wire/2012/0718/Why-Obama-s-you-didn-t-build-that-line-may-bite-back

About jaredgarrett

Jared Garrett is the author of Beat, a YA scifi thriller, and its forthcoming sequel, both published by Future House Publishing. A new series, debuting in January 2016 and also published by Future House, kicks off with Lakhoni, a fast-paced rescue adventure in a world reminiscent of Aztec culture, to be released in January 2016. He self-published Beyond the Cabin, a novelization of his childhood in a cult, in December 2014. Both Beat and Beyond the Cabin were Whitney Award nominees, and his story Song of the Wind, received honorable mention in the Writers of the Future contest. In addition to writing, he's spent fifteen years in adult education and is an accomplished public speaker and workshop leader.
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