Friday, July 20, 2012

Milton Friedman Responds to Obama’s Claim That There's No Such Thing as Individual Achievement

President Obama: “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.

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.” 

Milton Friedman responds in this 1979 video starting about 1:30:



“The world runs on individuals pursuing their separate interests. The great achievements of civilization have not come from government bureaus. Einstein didn’t construct his theory under order from a bureaucrat. Henry Ford didn’t revolutionize the automobile industry that way. In the only cases in which the masses have escaped from the kind of grinding poverty you’re talking about, the only cases in recorded history, are where they have had capitalism and largely free trade.

If you want to know where the masses are worst off, it’s exactly in the kinds of societies that depart from that. So that the record of history is absolutely crystal clear, that there is no alternative way so far discovered of improving the lot of the ordinary people that can hold a candle to the productive activities that are unleashed by the free-enterprise system.”

31 Comments:

At 7/20/2012 6:56 PM, Blogger bart said...

Uncle Miltie - 1

Big government, incl Obummer & socialism/fascism - 0

 
At 7/20/2012 7:41 PM, OpenID Sprewell said...

Maybe that's why more states are trending Romney's way, even before Obama put his foot in his mouth with this comment. I can't imagine it's helped reverse the trend going against him, only helped it.

 
At 7/20/2012 8:47 PM, Blogger Steve said...

"Obama’s Claim That There's No Such Thing as Individual Achievement"

Really? Mark that is what you heard President Obama say? Really?

I often do not agree with you, but I thought you were more intelligently honest than your above statement.

 
At 7/20/2012 9:24 PM, Blogger Ken said...

Steve,

If you've got a business, that... you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen.

The entire point of Obama's rant is that all achievement is collective, not individual. If you achieve something, you didn't do it. Others made it happen.

His claim that bridges, roads, and schools are the reason for an individual's success is just flat wrong; causality runs the other direction. Businesses don't succeed because bridges, etc. get built. Bridges and roads get built because businesses succeed.

The existence of roads and bridges don't cause success to magically happen. After all, there are literally thousands of businesses that have gotten started in just the last two decades that turned millions of people into millionaires. But there are literally millions of businesses and hundreds of millions of worker in this country alone. If roads and bridges cause success, why are only a few business owners and millionaires?

It's because of individual achievement. Something Obama explicitly denies with his declaration. In fact, it's the theme of his entire presidency. Americans think America is exceptional the same way the Greeks think Greece is exceptional. Of course, that's just flat wrong too.

 
At 7/20/2012 9:30 PM, Blogger Mace said...

Since Uncle Miltie is gone, we've got to solve the problem of collectivist tyranny in this country folks.

 
At 7/20/2012 9:37 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

I don't see the explicit denial of individual achievement that is claimed. While individual efforts are important, they cannot go nearly as far without all the assistance they get.

Naturally the government had am interest in success, bevsuse government in turn gets a piece of the increased action.

 
At 7/20/2012 9:44 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

It is also true that government kills initiative, or seems to. However, looked at more closely, the initiative that is killed is the initiative to do things in a shoddy or cheap manner, sloughing hidden costs off on others.

 
At 7/20/2012 9:46 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

it's the usual twisting the right regularly engages in these days.

Obama made the mistake of saying that sentence in a context that then got stripped away by the intellectually dishonest types.

The most hilarious thing about this election is that the GOP is running a Grade A RINO - the same kind that they have banned from the party in Congress.

But the right is so desperate that they take than RINO in a heartbeat.

 
At 7/20/2012 9:52 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

It is silly to argue the direction of causality. Government is able to do things that help business because of the taxes successful businesses pay. It is a circular relationship.

 
At 7/20/2012 10:23 PM, Blogger Mark J. Perry said...

I was quoting my AEI colleague Jim Pethokoukis, who was quoted in the WSJ:

"The more worrisome interpretation is that Obama is adding his own philosophical addendum to the Warren Doctrine: that there is no such thing as individual achievement or merit. All success is directly due to society's collective effort as manifested by government. It takes a village—or at least its bureaucrats—to accomplish anything."

 
At 7/20/2012 11:06 PM, Blogger juandos said...

So I'm curious , just what do these words mean?

spilled from the pie hole of the Kenyan Kommie Klown: "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"...

 
At 7/21/2012 8:16 AM, Blogger Larry G said...

there are countries in the world without public roads, without public schools, without power grids and in general it's true that what you gain - you do some pretty much by yourself.

Countries that do tax and do provide infrastructure for not only the public but commerce - provide MORE / BETTER OPPORTUNITY to succeed than those who live in countries that do not provide that.

This is why innovation and major advances and breakthroughs as well as powerful entrepreneurship occurs in countries like the US and not in countries that have little or no infrastructure.

We had a thread about cell towers.

cell towers in the US and most industrialized countries depend on grid power. Grid Power relies on public rights-of-ways for their power lines.

In 3rd world countries someone said that cell towers use diesel.

Who pays for that diesel and how is diesel obtained and transported to where the cell towers are ?

In the US, we take the electric grid for granted but it's not a private grid and it could not function as a private grid if the govt did not help in acquiring rights-of-ways.

The same goes for pipelines and rail, and even airport rights of ways.

this is one of the primary differences between 3rd world countries and industrialized countries.

Without this infrastructure, it is next to impossible for anything other than the most rudimentary businesses to exist much less prosper.

and that's exactly what most countries look like with govt-sponsored infrastructure.

 
At 7/21/2012 10:44 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

*yawn*

Another long string of baseless opinions pulled from Larry's ass.

 
At 7/21/2012 4:33 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"Another long string of baseless opinions pulled from Larry's ass">...

Now ron h as funny as that line is you know its cruel to pick on the short bus riders...

 
At 7/21/2012 4:34 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

brutal Juandos...brutal...

 
At 7/21/2012 5:25 PM, Blogger Paul said...

"But the right is so desperate that they take than RINO in a heartbeat."

True, but only because socialist Obama will destroy America as we know it if he gets another 4 yrs without worry of running again for re-election.

 
At 7/21/2012 10:48 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"but only because socialist Obama will destroy America as we know it"...

Yeah paul its always been my dream to see this country morph into another Liberia from sea to shining sea...

 
At 7/22/2012 6:14 PM, Blogger MikeK said...

"Countries that do tax and do provide infrastructure for not only the public but commerce - provide MORE / BETTER OPPORTUNITY to succeed than those who live in countries that do not provide that."

Larry, Larry, Larry The countries that tax have to have something TO tax. Where does that something come from? And countries do not "provide that", people who create wealth provide that.

I know it's probably a waste of time replying to such inane posts, but that was over the top, even for you.

 
At 7/22/2012 6:31 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

Larry, Larry, Larry The countries that tax have to have something TO tax. Where does that something come from? And countries do not "provide that", people who create wealth provide that.


so how come people in countries with higher taxes and more regulations can create more wealth than 3rd world countries?

you'd think the 3rd world countries would have a much better free market for innovation and business creation.

what's the difference?

how does a country go from a poor country to a rich country?

govt investment in infrastructure and rule of law and protection of property rights (regulations).

take a look:

http://www.worldjusticeproject.org/sites/default/files/WJP%20Rule%20of%20Law%20Index%202010_2_0.pdf

 
At 7/22/2012 9:39 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

It is a circle.

Government works assist enterprise wich makes the money for government works.

If enterprise worked as well as claimed, we would not need government.

Let me know when eneterprise creates a society with nor government and no regulation.

 
At 7/22/2012 10:17 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"This is why innovation and major advances and breakthroughs as well as powerful entrepreneurship occurs in countries like the US and not in countries that have little or no infrastructure"...

Born yesterday larry g?

The Soviet Union had infrastructure, weren't they a smashing success?

Mind you there were/are people in everyone of the iron curtain countries that were at the very least as smart as people in this country but what good did it do them?

 
At 7/22/2012 10:43 PM, Blogger juandos said...

World Justice Project larry g?!?!

ROFLMAO!

What's next? Tinkerbell? Magic fairy dust?

You do realize that in the real world there no world law, right?

You really do know nothing about them apparently...

 
At 7/23/2012 5:05 AM, Blogger Larry G said...

The 2011 index draws on assessments and opinion surveys carried out by independent and reputable institutions. These surveys and assessments include questions related to the bribery of public officials, kickbacks in public procurement, embezzlement of public funds, and the effectiveness of public sector anti-corruption efforts. Perceptions are used because corruption is to a great extent a hidden activity that is difficult to measure. Over time, perceptions have proved to be a reliable estimate of corruption.

this passes the smell test?

:-)

re: Russia and infrastructure

you have to have rule of law and protection of property rights in addition to govt investment in infrastructure.

I hardly think Russia would have been considered a paragon of protecting property rights.

so Juanos, you strike out, yet again boy.

 
At 7/23/2012 10:01 AM, Blogger EPIT said...

It's amazing that so many people seem to think that government begets society.

The base functional unit of any society is the individual.

Everything that's talked about here with regards to government's role in a society is recent history (the last 100 years or so).

What does it matter anyway? The US Constitution is a dead document, simply tossed about whenever usable by the "political elite" we all allowed entry into the government.

This whole debate - and the fact that it even is taking place - is just proof of that.

It's as Franklin said, "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty no safety."

Mob rule sucks.

 
At 7/23/2012 10:22 AM, Blogger tomqwas said...

Even Donahue was spouting redistribution of wealth back then. Friedman's saying of free trade is ok , but is destroying us because free trade has to be equally free between traders.We needed government to break up Rockefeller's standard oil as anti trust cannot be pursued from the street level,as this type of greed is hidden behind corporate offices.

 
At 7/23/2012 11:13 AM, Blogger Mike the Worker said...

Obviously Obama and those who think that way have never been to Mexico, home of Carlos "Slim", one of THE richest men on the planet. I would be willing to bet Mexico's world renowned infrastructure (or lack of, more accurately) didn't do him any favors. Let people talk, and they'll tell you about themselves every time. I would venture to say that maybe Obama isn't that smart, didn't work that hard, and had a LOT of help by interested parties.

 
At 7/23/2012 1:06 PM, Blogger Petros Bezirganyan said...

Are you talking about the Carlos "Slim" the Butcher?! Bad choice to promote liberty...

And how come Mexicans are still lining up to cross the border to the north -- into this corrupt "socialist" country, as some say?! Mexicans are bunch of Socialists, I surmise -- they do not want to live under Free Market Capitalism and private roads and all... I think they are just stupid to risk their lives like that to tough it out in the desert; Or, maybe, it could be that they are just great outdoors enthusiasts and survivalists... Who knows?

 
At 7/24/2012 1:23 AM, Blogger Tim McMahon said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 7/24/2012 1:32 AM, Blogger Tim McMahon said...

At one point Zimbabwe was the second richest country (per capita) in Africa. Loads of good infrastructure. And then the British were kicked out it is now among the poorest. Infrastructure has nothing to do with how rich the people are except in a reverse causality sort of way. Rich people build good infrastructure not the other way around. What caused the decline of Zimbabwe? The roads falling apart? The rules of the game were changed making it impossible to make a profit. And poof they went from rich to poor. Why is Singapore richer by orders of magnitude than Thailand? The government of Singapore is pro-free enterprise. Governmental salaries are based on the amount of GDP growth. So they pass laws promoting growth rather than stiffling it. Yes the president and congress gets a "bonus" based on the amount of GDP growth. See: Could We Base Governmental Salaries on Performance?

 
At 7/24/2012 4:32 AM, Blogger Larry G said...

@Tim - do you think the US was a rich country when it opened up the west to transcontinental rail?

by the way what Obama said was:

"
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."

the "that" referred to roads and bridges ...

and that's one big difference between countries that prosper and ones that do less so.

Govt invests in infrastructure - not just any infrastructure for any reason but infrastructure that enables and incentivizes commerce.

While the infrastructure does cost money - it also promotes investment.

the reason we have an internet, a GOPS satellite system, an inter-coastal waterway, dams for electricity and irrigation, rail, tunnels, etc is govt.

you don't have to be rich to build this stuff. In the case of the transcontinental rail - the govt gave right of way in return for building the rail.

What you do have to do though is protect people's investments with rule of law and protect property rights.

The current narrative is that govt is not really responsible for a healthy economic framework and that anyone can work hard enough to make it happen without government.

And what I point out is that there are over 100 countries in the world with less government for entrepreneurs to pay less taxes and have less regulation to succeed as individuals on their own and the record is pretty clear - the countries that invest in infrastructure, protect rule of law and property rights are the ones that succeed best - and rule of law and property rights are protected with laws and regulations - govt law and regulations.

 
At 7/29/2012 12:42 PM, Blogger dordoug6 said...

To tomquas & others

One legitimate role of govt is to protect against force & fraud. Unfortunately today (and almost from the beginning of the republic, it is the government that epitomizes force & fraud. I once watched an interview of Michael Moore, criticizing capitalism. In it, he was asked whether or not he was a capitalist himself. His answer was to a) ignore the question & b) state that he hated capitalism because businesses made laws to help themselves! REALLY??? It is the politicos who take BRIBES who make those laws. Is it reprehensible to offer a bribe? Certainly! But who forces pols to TAKE bribes (and use insider trading on a massive scale, and turn a blind eye to the dereliction of some campaign contributors)???

The comments about the need of govt to break up Rockefeller's empire are entirely wrong. He built his empire on integration of all elements of oil: buying the property, drilling the wells, hauling the oil to the refinery that he owned, trucking the gas to his station, etc. That was THE MOST EFFICIENT way. However, his methods of doing this included thuggery & murder, among others. Yet the gov't solution was to pass laws to make the SYSTEM LESS EFFICIENT, instead of the more intelligent action of arresting & jailing John D for his crimes!

Typical govt reaction to a problem!

The problem with Obama's & Warren's statements are not so much what they said (we can all interpret what they meant); the problem is what they left out: That successful business today will then pay lots of taxes to build (or repair) infrastructure, and educate the next group of employees, for future successful people to use, and thus perpetuate the system.

That is ONLY possible under free-market.

To quote Mr Freidman again:

For those who understand, nothing more needs to be said.

For those who do not understand, nothing more will help.

Dorian Douglas

 

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