Obama, Warren and a false premise

President Obama’s “you didn’t build that speech” certainly created a firestorm. And it still continues to rage. Republicans, sensing a golden opportunity to prop up their own tepid presidential hopeful, seized the quote and immediately began using it as proof of Obama’s socialistic worldview.

Of course, if you take the president’s words at face value, he speaks the truth. Nobody created anything on their own. We live in an interconnected society. Businesses depend on others to supply parts and labor, to buy their products, and yes, to build infrastructure.

But what of his underlying message?

Obama wants to make the case that successful people somehow “owe” something to society at large. Implicit in his remarks, we find the idea that successful, rich Americans use “public resources,” such as roads and education, and this creates the justification for levying higher tax rates on the fruits of their labor. After all, the “public” helped them “build that.”

Obama’s remarks parallel those made by Massachusetts Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren last year.


Decentralization as a Means of National Defense

In All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, author Stephen Kinzer describes the U.S./British operation that lead to the deposition of a popularly elected prime minister and the installation of a repressive dictator. Without going too far into the history of the affair, suffice it to say that Iran was a virtual colony of the British Empire for the better part of 100 years.

One way the British government achieved and maintained control over the Iranian people (and a number of their colonies, for that matter) was by working to diminish the role and power of regional tribes. Political authority was then vested in the hands of an Iranian monarchy, which was supported by the British State and subservient to it.

This is one reason among so many that people should always seek to preserve decentralized social order and government power. Not only will domestic tyrants look to gain control of the people in their own territory, but outside parties can use the government to exploit them as well.


New Article: James Madison, Federal Overreaching, and Amendments Conventions

The writings of James Madison still offer useful guidance for states seeking to restrain federal overreaching. Akron Law Review has just published my short article discussing the evolution of Madison’s thought on the subject—from Federalist No. 46, through the Virginia Resolution of 1798 and subsequent writings, to his final recommendation that states unhappy with federal actions…