Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Self-Made Myth

It's perhaps time to give thought to the concept of the self-made "job creator."

As Elizabeth Warren recently said, "There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. You built a factory? Good for you. But I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea? God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”

This same idea is advanced in a new book—The Self-Made Myth by Brian Miller and Mike Lapham.  A central thesis of the book is that the greater an individual’s success, the greater his or her dependence on public infrastructure, public investment in research and innovation, and regulations and fair rules—all of which business leaders in the book cite as essential to their own accomplishments.

Many politicians are relentlessly pushing the notion that lower taxes, less regulation and small government (except for defense) will magically end the recession and create a better country, and “job creators” will lift all boats.  Perhaps, as we move toward November, we should reconsider the social contract that "self-made job creators" have implicitly entered into with their 311,591,917+ American brethren.