The Chance to Succeed or …
this day and age there’s lots of talk about the wealth of the
successful and how they are not paying their fair share. Of course,
some third party is going to decide what their fair share is. God
instructed the Israelites to present 10% of their earnings to the LORD.
Presumably, He didn’t believe in a progressive income tax or in taking
more from the rich because that would only be “fair.” But since most
liberal thinkers and leaders don’t really like the idea of a God, they
play that role. They put themselves in the role of God via the
government and decide what is best for everyone. How nice. How wrong.
the powers that are in Washington praise small business, but condemn
big business. In other words they condemn success, i.e. those small
businesses that grew into big businesses. They praise workers, but
condemn those who create jobs. They talk about excess profits and love
to prattle on about the excesses of the wealthy. Some of it is just
class warfare politics and the rest is petty jealously. All of it is
Pitting one person against another person is hatred.
Being jealous of another person is covetousness. God condemns both.
Wanting to gain control over others through any means (including
government) is the original sin of wanting to be like God. No one is
immune. Individually it’s disagreeable, through the aegis of government
it’s the road to slavery.
America used to celebrate success.
Horatio Alger stories enthralled and inspired young people to strive for
success. The lives of those who started poor like Edison, Ford, and
Carnegie and made great fortunes were people to be admired. It was
understood that they succeeded because they took risks, exercised
persistence, and were blessed by God. Recently the US lost one of those
inspirational leaders, Steven Jobs. A college dropout, Jobs not only
created thousands of jobs directly at his plants and retail outlets, but
like Ford and Edison and Carnegie before him, he made life better for
millions of Americans and for millions of others around the globe.
Thankfully Jobs wasn’t just a small businessman with modest success, he
became incredibly successful and wealthy, but that wasn’t what drove
Jobs. It was his passion to do something new and better than ever
before. It’s the same thing that drives all innovators and developers
and businessmen. And because Steven Jobs was so driven, our lives are
blessed by innovative products like the Apple Computer, the iPod,
iPhone, and more recently the iPad.
Steve Jobs and Ford and
Edison and Carnegie and many, many others personify the American dream
and the power and miracle of the American free enterprise system. They
personify the freedom to succeed or to fail in the land of the free and
the home of the brave.
Of course, much is written about their
success, but today I want to write about their failures. Jobs was
booted unceremoniously out of his company because he failed to lead his
company to profitability. Edison was a legendary failure, bragging
about how many times he failed. In fact, Edison said, “I have not
failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”
over and over again. Hershey and Disney went into bankruptcy multiple
times. But they learned from their failures and that propelled them to
greater success than they had ever before experienced. And because they
succeeded we were all blessed.
Starting your own business
doesn’t guarantee success. In fact, the high probability is that you
will risk everything and you will lose everything. Much more than 50%
of all new business ventures end in abject failure. Name me a
businessman or woman who hasn’t failed and you’ll name an also-ran or a
liar. Failure is the father of success, if you can survive it.
put two companies into bankruptcy. I’ve had three mortgages on my
house. I’ve been in debt so far that all my assets together didn’t
amount to 25% of the debt I faced. That’s a typical story of any
Failure is necessary to achieving
success. When parents try to shield their children from failure they
are not helping them, they are hurting them. Everyone fails and because
they do, they learn important lessons. When government bails out a
business or a bank (bankers are not businessmen), they hurt everyone.
Just look at the incredible mess created by the so-called “Great
Society” of Lyndon Johnson. Government has successfully destroyed the
American dream for millions of impoverished Americans.
government interferes in the marketplace with regulations or with
subsidies, they damage everyone. Propping up a non-market business like
Solyndra with a loan guarantee hurts everyone. It’s unfair to
competitors, it’s unfair to taxpayers, it hurts lenders and vendors, it
hurts those who were subsidized, and it drives up the cost of living for
everyone. Government does not belong in the marketplace. It was the
cause of the Great Depression and it is the cause of Obama’s Great
The right to fail is just as important as the right to
succeed. It’s a positive destructive process that brings efficiency to
the marketplace. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but letting
business ventures fail is essential to a healthy marketplace. The more
rapidly a business fails, the less the damage to everyone. Healthy
failure is essential to making sure the right products and services
succeed for the benefit of everyone, and that the wrong, non-marketplace
goods and services disappear forever.
It’s the reason government
should not be in the business of interfering with the free actions of
free men in the economic marketplace. When government starts protecting
businesses or buyers or workers or employers, it always causes more
unfairness, not more fairness. The arrogance of a government bureaucrat
or a politician to think that he can make decisions better than the
marketplace is laughable and always ends up as making things worse.
Think of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Think of Solyndra. Think of all
the Chrysler bond holders that were damaged by government interfering
with the failure of that company.
see the marketplace as static, but it’s anything but static. It’s
constantly changing and moving and driven by millions of free decisions
by individual consumers. In a free market the consumer is king, not
some government bureaucrat or politician. Millions of consumers decide
whether a product or service should succeed or fail. And while you and I
may marvel or shake our heads at the Forbes 400 list of billionaires,
what we fail to notice is that those on that list and the rolls of
millionaires changes from year to year and month to month.
know several individuals whose personal net worth was in the hundreds of
millions of dollars and today all their wealth is gone. Why? Because
after they succeeded they failed so dramatically that they can never
financially recover. Such is the nature of individual freedom. They
had the right to succeed and to fail. We should never deny anyone of
An academic liberal would never be willing to share
his grade point average with a failing student, nor should he. Yet that
same individual takes it upon himself to tell others that they have too
much and it’s only fair that they share that wealth with others.
Really? God gives us talents and blesses us with good or bad
circumstances as He chooses. Why are we to question His decisions?
matter how well intentioned someone may be in wanting control over the
lives of others, it always ends up badly. Churchill said that freedom
and democracy are messy and indeed they are. Totalitarians like order
and control, but free people understandably don’t like to be under
Today Americans, and indeed the entire world, are
struggling to restore prosperity, but the remedies of the current
Administration only threaten to make the situation worse. Only by
shrinking government, reducing its power, restoring a government of
laws, and dramatically limiting government interference in the
marketplace, will prosperity be restored.
It won’t happen under
the current President, but I’m increasingly optimistic that the next
election will usher in an American renaissance which will restore and
expand freedom and prosperity to every level of our society. The
restoration began with Reagan. Perhaps it will be continued by