Stanford Can Build It!

As we all know, Stanford is a school with a robust start-up culture. Spring quarter is filled with students having conversations that sound a bit like this:

Person A: “What are you doing this summer?”

Person B: “Working on a start-up.”

President Barack Obama delivering a speech on how the government can help small businesses. Photo credit: Chuck Kennedy

President Barack Obama delivering a speech on how the government can help small businesses. Photo credit: Chuck Kennedy

Brief, vague, and one never knows if that start-up will be the next Facebook.

Every year hundreds of students commit large quantities of time, and put their every effort into creating the ‘next big thing.’ Some students even drop out to pursue their dream careers in business. From these risks and individual efforts, the world has been given companies such as PayPal, LinkedIn, Google, Netflix, Sun Microsystems, and Nike. All founded by Stanford Alumni, all extraordinarily successful, and some would argue all world changing. But, according to President Obama, “If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that.”

Over the summer, President Obama was quoted stating:

“Look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own… If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. …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.” (bolding added).*

There has been a large backlash from Conservative news sources, condemning Mr. Obama for his statements. Many sources tend to leave out the top part of the excerpt and focus on the last two sentences in order to strengthen their arguments. There is even a “We did build it!” movement headlined by the Romney campaign in order to empower small business owners in response to Obama’s declarations.

Liberal media has written and reported a multitude of articles analyzing the grammatical format of the speech. They assert that Obama meant “roads and bridges” when he said “that” in the bolded sentence. Then, they go on to prove that if one created a business, that person needed the government’s help at some point.

The president made these claims in order to support the Obama campaign’s desire for higher taxes. If you built a company, you used roads and bridges along the way that were paid for by the government. The thinking behind this supports the idea that we should raise taxes in order to empower the government in order to give us more roads and bridges to work with so we can create more businesses.

However, erase the political jargon surrounding news source analyses and look at these statements from the perspective of an average American citizen. Even if the “that” referred to “roads and bridges,” it does not reduce the underlying opinions that Obama and his campaign team seem to believe.

Obama’s statements claim that without the government, there is no success. The government provides the structure for one to be able to create a business. This is all fine (and fairly true to an extent), but the motivating tone of his argument is to say that Americans need the government to control more in order to foster a successful society. Give the government more power and America will have more success. It is as if the government is taking credit for the success of businesses in America.

Government does not create businesses.

Excuse me that was a typo. Let me try again. Government does not create *successful *businesses.

Individuals create successful businesses. Individuals who are smart, work hard, and take the initiative to get what they want. These criteria can be applied to individuals who have small businesses such as a Mom and Pop ice cream store, all the way to Apple Inc., arguably the most successful company in modern history.

Every government institution is bankrupt or on its way to be bankrupt. The post office, and the railroad system just to name a couple. Not to say that these institutions are not necessary, because they are. Government is there to provide services that cannot be privatized, are inefficient if privatized, or are simply necessary as public establishments.

But, companies such as Apple Inc., Facebook, and even In ‘N’ Out, were created by individuals, funded by individuals, and achieved success because of the drive of those individuals.

I would like us all to remember, as Stanford University students (a private institution) that we can build businesses. We can do it without the government’s “help”, and we can do it without a president who condemns those who take pride in their success.

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