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Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Chance to Succeed or …

         The Chance to Succeed or …
In 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.
Today, 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 sinful.

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.”

Ford failed 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.

I’ve 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 “successful” businessman. 

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.

When 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 Recession.

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.

Liberals/progressives always 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.

I 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 that right.

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? 

No 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 anyone’s thumb.

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 President Cain.

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