They are four simple words. On their face, they seem harmless enough. The typical lib claims they’ve been taken out of context – that the president of the United States, when he spoke those words, was not sneering in contempt for producers, proclaiming all innovators, all of the working, earning class, to be the property of the collective, denying that individual initiative and effort count for anything against the vague, mutual “contributions” of society as an amorphous bloc. The problem is that our president was not taken out of context in any way. The full context for the quote makes it all the more damning. “You didn’t build that,” to Obama, means, “We own you.”
“If you were successful,” Obama said on the campaign trail in Virginia, “somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.”
Obama concluded, “The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.” In other words, he paid lip service to the notion of individual effort while dismissing it, saying instead that your success comes about because of society at large. This is an important point and a very necessary socio-political trope pushed by socialist liberals. They must establish that the individual is subordinate to the state, to the collective, in order to make you hate producers.
It’s already happened. The endless debate about the “fiscal cliff” and the “rich” having to “pay their fair share” is nothing more or less than a successful war on the producing class by Obama and his ilk. The Democrats have succeeded in making you hate everyone who pays taxes. They have convinced you that anyone with money stole that money from people who don’t pay taxes. They have successfully persuaded a majority of Americans that those who already pay a wildly disproportionate amount of their income in taxes somehow aren’t paying enough. This is alarming because in demonizing producers, we create a dependent class of pathetic, unemployed, entitled liberal losers who exist to vote their socialist demigods into office. That’s why Obama won the last election despite his wretched stewardship of the United States.
What’s worse, though, is that all of this has already been predicted. We were told it was going to happen. We were told it was happening. We ignored these warnings because they came from a little old lady with a funny accent and a peculiar personal life.
Her name was Ayn Rand.
Born in Russia and only too familiar with the depredations of communism, Rand began her career writing fiction. Her hit novel “The Fountainhead” was followed up by her magnum opus, “Atlas Shrugged.” The latter is a preachy and often torpid volume that nevertheless sets out her philosophy, “Objectivism,” in no uncertain terms. She spent the rest of her life writing non-fiction, publishing books and newsletters that warned us of the ruin the liberals have brought us. One of her students and heir to her estate, Leonard Peikoff, published a book called “The Ominous Parallels” back in 1982. That book is worth reading today. It reinforces Rand’s warnings and explains just how we’ve come to this awful pass.
“ The Ominous Parallels” asks the question, regarding collectivist horrors (such as Nazi Germany): “Why?” As far as Peikoff is concerned, this question has not been answered to his satisfaction by previous authors. He believes it is a question of philosophy: German philosophers prepared the minds of the German people to accept philosophical concepts that paved the way for the coming of the Nazi jackboots. The philosophical tenets Peikoff blames include irrationality, the belief that the welfare of the state and of the collective are more important than the welfare of the individual, and the modern liberal morality of altruism (you know, the philosophy that “the rich” should get soaked because they’re not paying enough).
Peikoff spends a good deal of time describing what makes totalitarianism and the “ethics of evil” operate as they do. He then contrasts statist or collectivist thought with the United States, which he sees as a nation born of enlightenment ideas, built by men who conceived the nation on a philosophy of individualism. Alas, he complains, this was not sustainable; since its inception, the inability of individualists to defend these enlightenment ideals has led to the popularity of philosophical thought that chips away at the foundation of our great nation. Thus, one may draw “ominous parallels” between the U.S. and Nazi Germany, seeing in the cult of personality around Obama the very worship of irrationality, of collectivist ethics, of statism, that led to Hitler’s rise to power.
There is a ray of hope, however. Peikoff believes that, while Germany’s people and Germany’s intellectuals shared the same basic outlook on life and society, the United States’ intellectual establishment is at odds with society at large. America’s intellectuals, asserts Peikoff, advocate irrationalism and statism, preaching a philosophy hateful of the enlightenment ideas on which the country was founded. Society at large generally rejects these notions, though individuals do not necessarily embrace the alternatives explicitly.
Whether that’s true, given Obama’s re-election, remains to be seen. Peikoff concludes that only the adoption of a rational, self-interested philosophy – in other words, a return to capitalism, to solvency, to those “radical” ideas espoused by tea-party candidates – can save this nation. Rand’s philosophy formed the foundations of the libertarian movement in this country. Her ideas are as relevant today as they have ever been. If we are to become familiar with them, accept them and implement them, we must admit something first.