Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Don't Go Pattin' Yourself On the Back

I'm still trying to wrap my head around President Obama's comment last week that successful business owners "didn't build that.  Somebody else made that happen."  Was he taking a micro-economic look at business success and saying that customers are the only reason businesses succeed or fail?  Was he saying that employees make or break a business?  Or was he saying that some benevolent government official or program is the only reason a private business gets off the ground?  Or does he believe there is a "Business Fairy" that sprinkles gold dust on some companies--and poison on others?

The one thing we can safely say is that the President did not draw upon his own business success in making that statement because--well--the President has never actually worked for a business (post college).  And he's certainly not referring to the experience of any of his top economic advisors either--because they never worked in the private sector either.  And I doubt he got that line from conversations he's had from his big business cheerleaders like Warren Buffett or Bill Gates.  (Gates may be a poor example--he did pretty much steal everything from Apple and re-package it for MicroSoft)  Both of those guys would be pretty adamant that their respective companies wouldn't be anywhere near as successful as they are without the hard work and direction they provided from the very beginning.

But when you think about it, the President's comments are actually right on point with the main theme of his term in office: "It's not your fault".  If a person on the low end of the economic scale can't blame their lot in life on any of the personal decisions they made in the past (or continue to make)--then how can someone on the other end of the spectrum take credit for the decisions they made (and continue to make) for their success?

Rather than reading economics textbooks by John Maynard Keynes and thinking up ways to spend more government money to "help" the economy, President Obama should be reading up on the quotes of successful people.  You know, gems like "The harder I work, the luckier I get." (Samuel Goldwyn) "A real entrepreneur is someone without a safety net below them" (Henry Kravis) "Big pay and little responsibility are circumstances seldom found together" (Napoeon HIll) and "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work" (Thomas Edison).

Or was someone else responsible for all of their success as well?

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