Unfortunately, for those historically challenged, our Founding Fathers, all highly educated and "Elites" in Colonial society, followed the political philosophy of John Locke, who in 1690 wrote his famous pamphlet "The Second Treatise on Government." In his treatise, Locke explains that although man has "Natural Rights" under G-d given Natural law, he also will seek to join a collective community or society that together can govern in a way that will allow folks to seek their right to accumulate wealth through the gathering of assets, or what he calls, "Life, Liberty and Estates -Property." Sound familiar? If you doubt what I am saying, just look at Jefferson's words in the Declaration of Independence, "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." That pursuit is to create wealth. It is by no coincidence that these words became a part of the Declaration - Jefferson admitted late in life to have learned them from Locke. So what do we have then? If man is free outside of an organized community (synonymous with government), he will always be distracted in ways to protect his property from thieves or natural disasters. He will forever have one eye on danger lurking in nature instead of relying on the collective security found in a society's laws and mores. THIS is the philosophy that helped shape the design of our unique American vision of our Democratic-Republic.
But what role could government have today in business? Certainly not everyone has the vision, skill and endurance to build a business from the ground up and make it a success (especially when statistically, 3 out of every 5 business ventures fail). Then why is it that no matter what government does, it cannot take credit for the innovation and risks undertaken by entrepreneurs? If it can't, then Obama is dead wrong in his assertion ( as the GOP repeatedly and gleefully claim)! But why can't intelligent conservatives try to look beyond the political talking points on this issue and instead peel back the surface of the argument? Why can't they even consider what Locke was saying in his Treatise and how it really became the bedrock of our government? Are they well meaning in their beliefs? Perhaps? Are they correct in their steadfast denial that government has no role in building private businesses? No, they are wrong! They are wrong because they repeat the blunders of the misinformed. They continue to respond in reflexive opposition to Obama, regardless of the truth behind any of his statements. Consider the following and you will know why conservatives are wrong.
Although a school bus driver did not contribute to my success in life (we had to walk both ways up hill to school), my teachers taught me to read and write and to think (except math, they failed me on that account...a lot). After high school, I received a Hoosier Scholarship to attend college at no cost. Who paid for that? After
graduating college, I received guaranteed student loans to attend Graduate School and then Law School. Who paid for that? After pointing that out to folks, they have immediately responded that it was not the government that lent me the money, it was the taxpayers! Why didn't I consider that? Do students go door to door asking various taxpayers for student loans? Of course not. They now fill out a FAFSA form Online and it is administered by a grandma in Minnesota! Really? Nah, but just checking to see if you are still paying attention. The applications are handled and processed by the government. That all you got Rubin? What a weak argument you might say. But what about "building businesses?"
All airports, highways, bridges, military, and so forth are governmental functions. Got it. But what about business!? Let's see. When one wants to start a company, they first must decide what type of business they want to go into. Then they must find out, does the company name already exist? Where does one go to find out? Each state regulates name registrations. Huh? Doesn't it make sense that if I have a new company and a new name, I should make sure I register the name to ensure no one else uses it? What if I have a great company name, surely capable of drawing much needed attention to my business, what mechanism exists to protect me from having a rival come along and start using the name too, or a name very similar an effort to steal the goodwill I have created in my new venture? Governmental registration is the answer. If I have a unique product that I want to bring to market, who do I turn to to protect my product from being duplicated by a rival company? Trade mark, Trade name and Patents, all functions of government that protect me from this potential theft. Once I am up and running, how do I make sure others are not flooding the free market with lies about my product in an effort to steer buyers to another company instead of mine? The courts are available to guard against theft of goodwill and defamation. The Courts? Another function of government. When I risk everything I own to start a new business and I borrow too much (or not enough) money and it does not pan out for me, What do I do to avoid losing everything I own? I file for bankruptcy protection, so that I can get a "fresh start" to try my entrepreneurial skills out again. Some lose in bankruptcy, some win. Donald Trump and Mitt Romney can explain that phenomena better than me (not really, but they do have a lot of experience with bankruptcy don't they)? My point? Bankruptcy is guided by a code, promulgated by our government.
Starting to get my point? But what about the innovation and skill that separates successful businessmen and women from those that have no such skills? Although this does come down to a function of "Nature" as pointed out by Locke 322 years ago, the ability to share risks through tax write offs such as depreciation and credits makes those willing to take the risks better off to attempt them. Without such governmental advantages, most companies would never survive the start-up costs associated with a business. If I could not have written off expenses relating to the establishment of my law practice from my taxes, I would never have "made it."
My point without getting further into this argument is simply this...Locke wrote about the risks of dealing with Nature outside the protection of community/society/government. Government provides a basic foundation of security that a "lone wolf" could never provide for itself. Without the government, who would protect start-up businesses with innovative ideas from having larger predatory companies come swooping in to steal their ideas? Employees? Trade names? Marks? Patents? Business Plans? Who do you think Mitt Romney was referring to when he mentioned government must protect trade treaties with China in order to protect American Businesses? How in the world do conservatives ignore that comment?
Bottom line is this. Government cannot replace the skill, innovation and risk-taking successful entrepreneurs take when building a business. But it does provide collective security and support that helps those businesses survive in a treacherous world driven by Nature. Locke's exact words are "And were it not for the corruption and vitiousness (sic) of degenerate men, there would be no need of any other; no necessity that men should separate from this great and natural community, and by positive agreements combine into smaller and divided associations. The power of punishing he wholly gives up, and engages his natural force, (which he might before employ in the execution of the law of nature, by his own single authority, as he thought fit) to assist the executive power of the society, as the law thereof shall require: for being now in a new state, wherein he is to enjoy many conveniencies, from the labour, assistance, and society of others in the same community, as well as protection from its whole strength; he is to part also with as much of his natural liberty, in providing for himself, as the good, prosperity, and safety of the society shall require; which is not only necessary, but just, since the other members of the society do the like."
Not actually moronic is it? After all is said and done, government has a basic role in ensuring wealth is accumulated based upon the individual's capabilities, but despite those with their heads stuck in political rhetoric mode, we must all consider the impact of Locke on the birth of American Ideals and Values. They were the foundation for the "Spirit of '76." When it is all said and done, government does help "build that." Isn't it time to bring that "Spirit" back into our political discourse?