Policy Documents

Joseph Bast Speech: Praise to the Builders

September 22, 2012

The following is an excerpt from a speech Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast delivered at the "Yes, We Did Build It" rally in Waukesha, WI on September 22, 2012:

Back in July, President Obama said,

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.

Many people have parsed those lines, trying to defend them or attack them. There is some truth in some of them. I had a great teacher from 1st to 3rd grade. She taught me how to read and write, gave me my first book. We all use roads and bridges, and the government had a hand in creating the Internet.

But my great teacher was Sister Agatha, and she didn’t work for the government. She worked for the Holy Name of Jesus parish, which was built and supported by thousands of hard-working blue-collar Catholics. “Somebody” didn’t pay tuition for me at Holy Name; my folks did.

Starting a business and making it work is something only individuals can do, because a successful business exists inside its CEO’s head, not out there. It’s as simple, and as hard, as that.And so it goes with the rest of President Obama’s examples. Government might plan and own roads, but it doesn’t build them. Companies like Payne & Dolan, Kraemer, Edgerton, Hoffman, Mashuda, and Daar

Engineering build the roads, using vehicles built by companies like Caterpillar and John Deere.
Government doesn’t just allow us to use roads and bridges. We pay our way with federal, state, county, and local excise taxes on gasoline, and vehicle registration fees, drivers license fees, sales taxes on motor vehicles, heavy truck use taxes, traffic violation fines, and more.

And what about the Internet? The story that the Pentagon created the Internet to sustain communications during a nuclear attack is an urban legend. Xerox invented the Ethernet – the true precursor of the Internet – and the first personal computer, and the graphical user interface that still drives computer use today.

Try as it might, the government doesn’t own or operate the Internet. Maybe in China it does, but not here in America. Let’s all say a prayer to God that it never will.

Government doesn’t build businesses, individuals do. Entrepreneurs do. People who are willing to put in long hours and hard work, take the hard way instead of the easy way, and risk losing it all. Starting a business and making it work is something only individuals can do, because a successful business exists inside its CEO’s head, not out there. It’s as simple, and as hard, as that.

Download the PDF to read the whole speech.