I wrote a piece early in my blogging days called “Give It Back.” This, I thought was a more honest phrase than the one that socialists use when they say “Giving Back,” as in “giving back to society.” Corporations and entrepreneurs have been successfully targeted for robbery with this guilt-ridden bullet, a very successful shake-down strategy. This phrase discounts the fact that entrepreneurial risk “gave” or created jobs and added overall value. Entrepreneurs should receive medals, not be excoriated for being successful.
The current “president” has recently made statements that deny to business owners and entrepreneurs their ownership or credit for the existence of their business, a strategy meant to instill class warfare and also used to justify the all-benevolent government’s limitless expansion. Rather than just call him names (as many on the right are doing) let’s break this down, a great thought exercise I think, and one which reveals what he really means: “give it back.”
Let me first say that if “the president” is referring to companies like General Motors or Solyndra that would either no longer exist or would never have existed in the first place without the assistance of a government heist, I would agree with him. These companies do owe their success to all of those from whom they have stolen, and they should “give it back.”
Private enterprise is another matter. There is no doubt that the roads that lead to our surgery center, for instance, were necessary for patients to arrive to have their low cost high quality care that is not available at the government hospital down the street. That government built roads leading to these expensive and poor quality facilities, as well as ours, is interesting in itself and could become another blog. These roads came into existence in spite of the government, however. Professor Walter Block has made a compelling case for the privatization of all roads and bridges citing the incredible number of deaths and accidents from faulty design as one of his justifications. Interestingly, all roads and bridges in this country started out as private enterprises, government taking this business over as governments do when it suits them.
In Oklahoma City, a toll road is undergoing expansion as are various public roads. The toll authority, while a quasi-governmental entity is free from many of the constraints that characterize the department of transportation in our state. The speed with which this expansion is taking place is breathtaking, with workers toiling through the night and weekends. The likelihood of seeing anyone working on the public roads at any given time is small, by contrast. Government represents an impediment to the creation and maintenance of business, not some benevolent infrastructure gift giver.
When we decided to expand our operation and build a new medical facility in 2003, many jobs were created. These jobs were the gift of our willingness to take risk, a willingness that weighed the possible rewards to us in the event of success. The painter or the roofer took no risk when we contracted with them for their part. They stipulated a wage or price and we agreed and off we went. They deserve nothing further than that for which they asked in the beginning, a price or wage that was agreeable to them at the time, an amount that was determined by them without any element of coercion on our part. The idea that the surgery center is somehow not “ours” because we didn’t actually lay the concrete or put the roof on with our own hands makes as much sense as the idea that you don’t really own your home for the same reasons. The idea that the workers that built your home or our surgery center (or those that built the roads leading to it) are somehow “owners” of our facility, due some financial homage, overstates their role and discounts the risk and drive of the creators and dreamers without whose vision and risk tolerance, nothing would have been created, including the worker’s jobs.
Is infrastructure necessary for our medical facility to operate? Of course it is. Without water and electricity and roads we would be operating like medical facilities in Kenya, as this “president” well knows. Is government the best provider of all of these things? Is government the best provider of anything you can think of?
“Give it back,” the phrase of our socialist friends also betrays another collectivist idea, doesn’t it? Doesn’t this mean that “it” was never yours in the first place? Doesn’t it mean that whatever you have, ultimately belongs to the state and your possession of it is at their mercy and at best a temporary condition? I think we should look government in the eye at all levels and say “give it back,” as nothing ever comes their way without a robbery of those that are productive in our society.
G. Keith Smith, M.D.