Saturday, July 21, 2012

"You didn't build that"

Peggy Noonan comments on Pres Obama's "failure to communicate" when he wandered into "you did not build that."  We expect more from a Barack Obama than we do from a standard issue politician. The president has fashioned and delivered some eloquent speeches; he is clearly intelligent and he is also a savvy politician.

But gaffes are interesting because they are revealing.  The "You did not build that" discussion is revealing in two ways.

First, every one of us routinely depends on an uncountable number of supply chains of unfathomable complexity that involve large numbers of strangers. So it is clear that we rely on the cooperation of strangers, but they do all this voluntarily and on the basis of mutual benefit.

Second, this is not what the president seemed to have in mind.  He wanted his listeners to appreciate what they get from their government.  But that is not a mutual benefit deal.  In the same newspaper as the Noonan column, there is David Wessel's "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About The Budget* ... "But Were Afraid to Ask ... A lot of what government does is siphoning money from some and giving it to others ..."  People building a business will have to strain to see all this as a source of "help" to them.