(INOV8 welcomes guest blogger Aaron Stahl, founder of IA client firm Job Shadow.)
In President Obama’s recent speech, he asserts that no businessman or entrepreneur builds a business by themselves. In the purest form of his point, he is correct. But in everything that he implies, he is dead wrong.
Of course every entrepreneur has help along the way. Whether that be from a retiree whose savings are lent out to a businessman growing his business, an investor providing needed funds for a startup, advisers providing guidance, the customers or clients paying for a good or service, or even the guy serving a double expresso at Starbucks so you can work through the night building your business.
No entrepreneur could do it “by themselves.”
If the farmer wasn’t farming and providing food, then instead of building a business you might be plowing your backyard to make sure you had food to eat. An economy is the function of millions of people doing specialized things to mutually benefit each other as well as themselves.
The bottom line is that in any business you will see a myriad of people cooperating voluntarily for mutual benefit.
Obama, however, implies in his speech that entrepreneurs and businesses owe something to the government as a result of their success. It’s as if because the government built the roads, bridges and provided other services, Obama thinks businesses should bow down and be ever grateful. It’s like he thinks, given all our amazing advances in industry and technology over the years, we wouldn’t be able to figure out how to get a car across a river without his help.
More importantly, what Obama seems to forget is that the entrepreneurs, workers, students, soccer moms and anyone who has ever paid a tax or bought a gallon of gasoline has paid for every service the government has ever created. We’ve all paid for the roads, even the internet as he says, and every other facet of government. It’s not like we got all that for free.
We don’t owe the government anything other than what we paid to use those services.
If you buy $100 worth of food at Wal-Mart, do they owe you anything else? Of course not. Wal-Mart values your money more than they value the food in their stores. And you value the food more than you value your $100. You trade the two and both parties are better off as a result.
You don’t then go home and give speeches about how Wal-Mart “didn’t build that.”
Unfortunately, Obama’s rhetoric seems to be a central theme of his presidency. It’s as if the government has “allowed” business owners to become successful. Given that it’s the business owners, entrepreneurs and workers who provide the government with the needed tax revenue to function, you would think Obama would say “thank you” instead of “you didn’t build that.”
At the end of the day, every single business is in existence to satisfy the people’s wants and demands. If a company does that well, they make a profit; if they do not, then they go bankrupt and more worthwhile endeavors take their place.
Businesses and the entrepreneurs that provide amazing goods and services can become fabulously wealthy only if they provide what people want. No one holds a gun to our heads to frequent those businesses. As Sam Walton said, “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”
We spend our money at businesses because they’ve fulfilled our wants and desires to the point where we decide to pay our hard-earned money. All too often in his presidency, Obama has incited class warfare to vilify people who are rich or who have become successful as a result of giving us what we want.
Our standard of living is what it is today because of the hard work of businesses and entrepreneurs. Even people working on minimum wage today are able to afford luxuries that were only dreamed of in the past.
As author Matt Ridley says, “Of Americans officially designated as poor, 99 percent have electricity, running water, flush toilets and a refrigerator; 95 percent have a television, 88 percent a telephone, 71 percent a car and 70 percent air conditioning. Cornelius Vanderbilt had none of these.”
We have what we have today as a result of businesses and the hard working people who help to build them. Not because the government “allowed” us to do anything.
Instead of vilifying and talking down to businesses that make money and provide jobs, he should be saying “thank you.”
(Read more about NWA startup Job Shadow here, and feel free to let us know your take in the comments section below. Tune in later this week to hear from other Arkansas entrepreneurs on this issue.)