Click here to listen to the broadcast of You Tell Me on KTBB AM 600, Friday, July 13, 2012.
For your summer reading I recommend to your attention the book “Freedom’s Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II.” In a very well-written, well-researched and highly readable volume, author Arthur Herman describes how the Roosevelt administration, which had come into power by denigrating business and capitalism at every turn, was forced by the monumental demands of a global war to enlist the help of the very American businesses that they had been hitherto quick to condemn.
In dozens of anecdotes and stories, Herman explains that corporate titans and small business owners alike, who freely chose to bid on and win war production contracts (the government having no power to force any business to do any work it did not freely choose to do), out-produced the top-down, centrally-managed and highly coerced war production efforts of the Germans and the Japanese.
At the peak of production in the United States, the American economy was humming at full employment while average Americans were seeing economic prosperity and were creating wealth for the first time in over a decade.
At the peak of production in Nazi Germany, Albert Speer, Hitler’s Minister of Armaments & War Production, had succeeded in turning the country into what amounted to a giant underfed forced labor camp, a dark and dismal nation that despite the massive power of the German government to compel work from its industry and citizens, never came close to matching the output of the United States.
American free-enterprise, far-flung and completely beyond the reach of any imaginable central management, beat the socks off of the top-down, government-run war production efforts of Japan and Germany.
It does not overstate to say that American businessmen and American free enterprise literally saved the world.
I would pay out of my own pocket to send a copy of Herman’s book to President Obama and every White House staffer if I thought that they would a.) read it, and, b.) understand it.
The truth is, however, based on the recent un-telepromptered utterances of the president, there is no chance he would understand it.
Which explains why he could say that business owners can take only limited credit for their own success. That’s what he said last week in a campaign speech. He went on to say that the lion’s share of the credit is owed to government for the teachers and roads and bridges and firemen and police officers that government provides, all of which, according to the president, facilitate the success of business.
Which is, of course, completely untrue. It’s the other way around.
Everything that government does and every benefit that the government provides – every highway, bridge, dam, naval vessel, fighter jet, Humvee, public school, firefighter and police officer – comes from the fruits of the success of the American people.
America’s success in defeating unspeakable tyranny in two hemispheres in World War II, and the abundance of the American experience that followed, has its genesis in the dreams, hard work and self-interest of the American entrepreneur, who freely risks his own capital and his irreplaceable time in the hope of earning a bountiful reward.
Every world-wide brand name in America comes from such roots.
It works like this, Mr. President. American businessmen and women would find a way to succeed even if there were no highways. But turn it around and examine it from the other side and you are quickly forced to understand that there would be no highways without the success of American business.
That’s the way it works, Mr. President. It worked that way before you got here. It will work that way after you are gone.