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Ordered Liberty

‘You Didn’t Build That!’ … Oh Yeah?

July 18th, 2012 - 8:17 am

One of the many great things about Paul Johnson’s magisterial A History of the American People is that he begins that history in the Sixteenth Century. There was an identifiable, culturally distinguishable American People long before there was a Revolutionary War, a Constitution, or a central government. The American People, by their industry and ingenuity, didn’t just build successful businesses… they built the most successful nation in history — and all, somehow, without HUD, Fannie, Freddie, the EPA, OSHA…

In one of a thousand vignettes, Johnson tells the story of the founding of Springfield:

Elijah Miles, who moved to the Sangamon River country in 1823, left a record of how he founded Springfield. It was then only a stake in the ground. He marked out an 18-foot-square site for a store, went to St. Louis to buy a 25-ton stock of goods, chartered a boat, shipped his stock to the mouth of the Sangamon, and then had his boat and goods towed upriver by five men with a 300 foot tow-rope. Leaving his goods on the riverside — “As no one lived near, I had no fear of thieves” — he walked 50 miles to Springfield, hired waggons and teams, and so got his stuff to the new “town,”where his store was the first to open. It was the only one in a district later divided into fourteen counties, so “many had to come more than 80 miles to trade. Springfield grew up around him.

The president can try telling Americans they can’t build businesses, careers, communities and lives without his broke and broken Leviathan, but history and common sense prove him wrong every time. I’ve listened to some of this debate with fascination. Not at Obama — there is nothing surprising about his cockamamie claim that individual Americans could not have built their successful ventures without his central-planners providing the infrastructure of roads, bridges, police, firemen, schools and the like. What surprises me is the response of some on our side who argue that it was the other way around — that it was the successful ventures that prompted all the infrastructure.

Why would we concede the infrastructure to Obama? When it comes to human beings living in society and helping each other, why do we allow the president to treat we/us as if it were synonymous with the federal government. We built roads and bridges, policed our communities, put out fires, taught our children, and built our businesses before there ever was a federal government.

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