Blog author: jcarter
by on Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Work is at the core of our humanity, says Anthony Esolen, and our ownership of what we produce precedes laws demanding that we give it back to “community” in the abstract.

“You didn’t build that!” is probably the most preposterous statement I have ever heard from an American politician. A high bar to clear, no doubt, but let me justify the choice. It puts the effect before the cause. Suppose someone were to say, “If it weren’t for cities, there wouldn’t be such things as big family farms,” and therefore farmers owe it to city-dwellers to hand over more of their profits. But the farmer could well reply, “If it weren’t for farms, there would be no such things as cities,” and that is absolutely correct; without a surplus of food that can be stored, no city can exist. The farm is the foundation of the city, and not the reverse.

Similarly, the actions of risk-takers are the foundation of any civil order: they make it possible for there to be something to be governed. Granted, those risk-takers require law to protect their property, and government to enforce the law. But it is crucial to note the order of cause and even the order of being. No one writes a law raising tariffs on imported cotton unless there is already native cotton being grown. No one builds a railroad from Pittsburgh to Chicago unless there is already something to transport on it. Without the creativity and the daring of the businessman (or farmer, or prospector, or rancher, or inventor), we all live hand to mouth, and we take our orders from the leader of our tribe or clan.

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