I Want The World To Know Nothing Ever Worries Me
As you may have seen, Nobel Laureate President Obama recently gave a speech at a Campaign Event in Roanoke, Virginia. In his speech, he had a little section that is currently causing a bit of controversy. You can see the speech in its entirety in the link there, but here’s the excerpt that’s causing everybody and her brother to go nutso:
There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. (Applause.)
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.
So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together. That’s how we funded the GI Bill. That’s how we created the middle class. That’s how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam. That’s how we invented the Internet. That’s how we sent a man to the moon. We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that’s the reason I’m running for President — because I still believe in that idea. You’re not on your own, we’re in this together. (Applause.)
Now, some would want to take just the “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” part of the quote and make it central to a campaign ad (and, indeed, you will see this ad begin to play on television and radio in swing states starting approximately any minute now) but the whole horse race based on a sentence that may or may not accurately represent a world view held by the people who hold the reigns of power isn’t how I’m interested in digesting this speech.
I’d be more interested in assuming (arguendo) everything said here is absolutely true, 100%. I’m interested in starting from there and asking a handful of questions (and the “me”/”I” in these questions could just as easily be “you” but they could also be “that guy over there”):
- To what extent am I obligated to “we”/”us” because I have received this help?
- Is there a point at which my obligations can be considered “met”?
- Are there a substantial portion of my obligations to “we”/”us” that are not financial in nature? (If so, are they more interesting than merely “not breaking laws”?)
- As we move from the movers and shakers that are the creators/business owners to those of us who are merely fortunate enough to work for these folks, is there a substantial change in the obligations owed? (If there is a financial/non-financial ratio for the business owners, is there a different ratio for workers?)
- Moving from there, I find myself wondering about people who are more obviously receiving help from all of the infrastructure that was set up by other people. Is there a change in the obligations owed by the people who are more obviously getting this help? (If there is a financial/non-financial ratio for the other two groups, and if this ratio is different between them, is it different yet again for this group?)
Now, I ask these questions because I started wondering where 100% agreement with these assumptions would take me… and I found myself with a lot of strange obligations expected from different people in different social strata (and you would not believe what certain people in this group thought that certain people in that group were obliged to provide… financial *AND* non-financial… it looked a lot like the War on Drugs, actually).
The things that are so intuitive to those of us who are not obvious libertarians are not obvious to those of use who are intuitively libertarian. As such, I would very much appreciate seeing how these questions are answered, and how, ideally, these (my) obligations can be said to be “met”.