At the Washington Examiner, Timothy Carney writes (HT: The Transom), “When liberals talk about community, conservatives are too quick to raise the Gadsden Flag and shout, ‘Leave me alone!’” He goes on to examine “the reactions to catchphrases made famous by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton — ‘You didn’t build that’ and ‘It takes a village.’”

Despite the negative reaction from many conservatives, says Carney, Obama’s statement

in its full context, ‘you didn’t build that’ is true. Obama’s line began this way: ‘If you were successful, 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 …’

This is actually something conservatives frequently celebrate. Entrepreneurs often need investors and they always need customers.

WIPFSTOCK_TemplateI explore this dynamic at some length in my new book, Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action). As I write in chapter 1, “The Human Person, Family, and Civil Society,” the dichotomy of collectivism/individualism is highly problematic: “The dynamics of community life, which are the source and school of civic virtue, are often cast simply in terms of the atomistic individual or the all-encompassing collective.”

I argue with respect to the “you didn’t build that” statement that “even though the president’s words here may have been designed to cater to a base more inclined toward collectivism, conservatives and independents should not respond by rejecting the kernel of truth contained in the president’s remarks.” I go on to examine the ways in which we are interdependent, in the context of the family, business, and the church.

As I conclude, “We shouldn’t let the president’s overemphasis on the government’s role in fostering and sustaining community lead us to abandon a more comprehensive, variegated, and richer vision of community and social life. A proper understanding of human community is a corrective to, not a symptom of, collectivist thinking.”

Get Your Hands Dirty is available at Amazon and at the publisher’s website.

  • http://letterofliberty.blogspot.com/ Anand Venigalla

    Please don’t forget that many liberals and conservatives seem to conflate community with the State collective; this is what Obama meant with his “you didn’t build that” comment (http://www.lewrockwell.com/2012/08/thomas-dilorenzo/obamas-you-didnt-build-it-canard/).

    Obama wasn’t praising voluntary community; he was basically saying that you need the help of the State to live on, and that without it the free market would become chaotic.

    Voluntary community is not wrong; it is the conflation of this community and cooperative individualism with cooperation forced by the state at the point of a gun (or whatever weapon it uses) that is the problem.

    So while there are some atomists among libertarians out there, most libertarians reject atomism but also reject forced communitarianism.

    Obama’s nice little statements were a cover up of his wicked intentions when he made that statement; he wanted people to trust in the so-called “community” (read: the state collective). And let’s not gobble up the liberal mamby-pamby about what community should look like.