Who Built What

One day, a scientist was walking in the woods, making note of all the forms of life around him & thinking how far humankind had come in their understating of how life works. He said aloud “God, you made a mess of things & we don’t need you any more. We can even create life in a testube now. ”

God heard him & replied, “oh, really? Show Me.”

The scientist said, “All we need is 2 handfuls of dirt to get started” as he reached down to scoop up some soil.

God said, “Wait a minute — use your own dirt.”

The point of this joke is that no one except God creates or builds truly from scratch. There are resources used that were provided by others, often through the actions of government at some level.

I have been self-employed for 10 years & my business would not exist without the Internet, interstate & other highways & roads, the Post Office and a host of other infrastructure built or financed by government. Even the private sector components of my business are intertwined with government in many ways. Cell phones & computers owe their existence to the space race of the Fifties & Sixties to a surprising degree.

So saying that you need to remember how much you benefitted from others on the road to success seems rather obvious to me.

Some people (and the institutions, websites, networks, blogs, etc that they operate) are so opposed to President Obama that they will latch onto anything he says & use it to attack him, even when they have to take it out of context.

Keeping things in their proper context is the difference between “the Bible says ‘There is no God'” and “the Bible says ‘A fool says, There is no God.'” Both are true statements, but only the 2nd statement gives you enough of the whole truth to be an accurate reflection of what is meant by what was said. If you don’t keep things in context, you can be like the fool who says there is no God.

So, in the proper context, the President said that businesses rely upon an infrastructure of roads, bridges, railroads, airports, docks, satellites, and the internet, all of which were built by the government (or contractors working for the government, which amounts to the same thing).

To claim that you created and built your business with no help from the government is to ignore the vast impact the infrastructure has on any business.

As Jon Stewart pointed out on “The Daily Show,” this is a rather banal observation, as anyone would see, if they were to stop & consider it with an open mind.

Unfortunately, the President used the wrong pronoun. He said “you did not build that” when he should have said “you did not build those” as the latter would have made it clearer that he was referring to the infrastructure elements that he had been speaking about.

If you watch the entire speech, you will see, in the proper context, that one line does not mean what it appears to mean when you hear just it and no other part of the speech.

He did go on to say that he was giving credit to business owners for what they had built — all he was asking them to do is to recognize that they had help from the public sector (government) so they should expect to contribute back.

It really comes down to admitting that you can not be rich alone. It takes a civilization with the right combination of conditions for wealth to be accumulated and kept.

One of those conditions is a willingness on the part of the wealthy to show some gratitude for their good fortune and to share some of it with those less fortunate, as well as to kick in for maintenance of other conditions (infrastructure, reasonable rules of the market place, etc) that made it possible for them to become wealthy in the first place.

Especially in these times when the level of wealth & income inequality is higher in the USA than it has been in several decades and some evidence points toward it being worse here than in any country on the planet, showing gratitude for being well-off would seem to be a Really Good Idea.

Otherwise, you might hasten the day when more and more people join those Occupy protestors that annoy you so much — and you do not want that movement to reach critical mass, as you would not like the results.

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About Tim Gatewood

55+, male, widowed (May 2016). Mobile notary public and signing agent, freelance writer, and ordained minister. Science fiction and fantasy fan, willing servant to cats, avid reader and collector of books and other stuff. Please see my websites (including this blog and others) for more info on me and what I think about the issues of the day.
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