In today's paper, Dan Bice reports that Obama critic Ken Dragotta has obtained government contracts. I suppose that some will believe that this is ironic or revealing.
Sorry. I can't see it.
the story. Dragotta has been publicly critical of President Obama's
now infamous "you didn't build that" speech. Dragotta seems to believe
that he and his colleagues - and not the federal government - built his
business, Systems Engineering and Automation Corporation.
it turns out, that Dragotta's company has gotten contracts to provide
machine parts for the Department of Defense. Hasn't he benefited from
government largess? Isn't he a hypocrite?
No, he hasn't. No, he isn't. At least not because he got some government contracts.
import of the President's remarks - no matter how you read them - is
that people benefit from government and that this somehow obligates them
to the state and gives it a form of "claim" on their success.
On one level, this is, as others have pointed out, banal and uncontroversial. No one disputes that there are goods and services - national defense would be one - that are best provided by the government. It is well and meet that people pay taxes to pay for them.
that is all the President meant, his comments are completely irrelevant
to any issue in the Presidential campaign. No one is calling for the
abolition of government or the elimination of taxes. Paul Ryan's
budget, for example, does no more than seek to return federal spending
to a level that is more in keeping with its recent historical average.
reason that the remarks have drawn fire is that - even when taken in
context and given a forgiving reading - they do three things. First,
they express disdain for success in business, mocking those who believe
that their success came from working hard or being smart. Second, they
misunderstand the role that public goods play in individual success. We all go to school and use roads. We don't all build thriving businesses. Finally, they suggest that
someone who builds a successful business got something that he or she
didn't "pay for" and, therefore, owes the state something - something
even more than his or her share of the costs of roads, schools and other
public goods. In other words, the claim of the state is open ended and limited only be the sufferance of the majority.
that the last contention is true, government contracts are certainly not
an example of government larges. Mr. Dragotta' business presumably
received those contracts because he offered the best deal on the parts
that the military required. He got those contracts because he earned
I have purchased an iPod, iPhone and iPad. I download
music from iTunes. But I didn't build Apple and Apple doesn't owe me
anything. I did it no favors. I paid for products that I thought were
worth the price.
As did the Department of Defense when it purchased parts from Systems Engineering and Automation Corporation.
If Mr. Dragotta was arguing that the government ought not to exist or that it shouldn't build the submarines for which his parts are required, he's have some explaining to do. But, as far as I know, that was not his point. The fact that he was able to provide a product that the government wanted at a price it was willing to pay does not mean that the government "built" or has a claim on his business anymore than Apple owes me some free stock.
Cross posted at Purple Wisconsin.