Nice Olympics ceremony – pity somebody else did it
Danny, if you’ve got an Olympics Opening Ceremony - you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen
President Obama’s ad-libbed and therefore highly revealing observations about the role of individual effort and creativity in our society have made a significant impact on the US election campaign, and not in the direction he wanted.
Here is the key passage (emphasis added):
There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me -- because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t -- look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something -- there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. (Applause.)
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. 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.
The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires…
The President’s campaign are busily insisting that his remarks were ‘taken out of context’. But watch the video for your self. Note how he delivered these words – with an unmistakable and (as he is a good public speaker) finely calculated condescending sneer. Seeing those words in context as delivered makes them sound even worse.
Here President Obama is playing an explicitly populist card, suggesting (a) that ordinary folk are ‘really’ just as successful as people who do amazing things and (b) that those amazing things are not as amazing as they look because ‘somebody else’ did a lot of the spadework. And most important (c), that when people want to do big things ‘together’ the default mode to do that is through Government.
This is a far-reaching idea of authentic Liberal Fascist proportions. It puts the collective well ahead of the individual.
A new runaway YouTube success is a video from the campaign of Scott Brown, campaigning to stay in the Senate against a hard-core angry Leftist called Elizabeth Warren. Watch the whole thing, not least the almost unnerving intensity and sheer indignation of Ms Warren at the end as she wags her own wealthy finger at the successful, haranguing them for not remembering that the ‘rest of us’ were the sine qua non of their great achievements.
The Left political confidence trick here turns on a phony syllogism:
- No man is an island - success requires teamwork
- The state is the largest and best example of a fair team
- Therefore private success requires the state, and the state accordingly has a moral claim on all private success
The logic jump is to assume that large-scale teamwork requires the state. It doesn’t. By far the greatest example of democratic teamwork in human history is the way myriad products are created and move to and fro around the planet thanks to market forces and solid contract law that makes trade between complete strangers doable by managing trust.
Governments have a role at many stages of this process, especially in providing the legal framework. But the engine of private human creativity is the basis for everything else, including the very wealth that government confiscates and then frequently debauches.
That is not how the state sees it. As we see in the Eurozone debacle, the appalling idea that the state has an unlimited moral claim upon any resources out there in society (and can use that claim to avoid responsibility for the state’s own blunders) is growing fast.
The London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony saw plenty of laboured nods to progressive and collectivist thinking, from the sly CND slogan to the bizarre NHS episode– what a pity that it did not give us a montage of lively dancing skeletons representing the 1000 people dying a month thanks to ‘preventable’ NHS errors or lapses.
Yet one is tempted to forgive them, as the whole event was cast on such a huge scale and with such energy and openly inclusive boldness (down to the nice touch of having workers who helped build the stadium applaud in the Torch).
Nonetheless, the Ceremony shows just how revolting the Obama Doctrine is. Thousands of people took part directly in this ceremony, with many more thousands indirectly contributing over many months. They all delivered it on the day, with magnificent precision. Well done them.
But at the heart of the whole startling show was the uniquely personal vision and manic imagination of one British person, Danny Boyle.
Danny, if you’ve got an Olympics Opening Ceremony - you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.
Is that really how we want to think about things?
Charles Crawford is a Contributing Editor to The Commentator. A former British Ambassador in Sarajevo, Belgrade and Warsaw, he is now a private consultant and writer: www.charlescrawford.biz. He tweets@charlescrawford
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