Menu

OPINION

In small business remarks, Obama targets property rights, too

FILE: July 13, 2012: President Barack Obama greets supporters supporters following a rally in Roanoke, Va.AP

We’re seeing more and more of the real Barack Obama, as Election Day draws closer–more of the angry radical lurking behind the mask of Hope and Change.  

Certainly his remarks Friday in Roanoke, Virginia, “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen”-- are the most chilling words ever uttered by a sitting president.  

They represent a declaration of war not just on American business, which Obama already wants to hit with higher taxes come January, but the entire concept of private property.  They’ve put every business and property owner on notice, that the fruits of your business are not yours but ours, and “someone else” -- meaning government and those it purports to represent and speak for-- is free to appropriate them by any means necessary.

This administration covertly began its war on property rights in 2009 when it seized control of General Motors and put the government and unions in charge, shoving aside legitimate credit-holders.  But now the mask is completely off and we can see Obama firmly in a line of radical thought going back to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the first modern thinker to claim that private property was the source of all our ills, Karl Marx, and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, who declared “Property is Theft.”

That kind of thinking flies in the face of a tradition older than the Founding Fathers and defined by John Locke, that anything in nature with which I mingle my labor is rightfully mine–including the capital I invest to make the fruits of that property grow.  For most small business owners, that capital is often their own personal labor, as any farmer, owner of a hair salon, dry cleaning parlor, car dealership, or video game software company, can tell you.  Yet even if that company becomes as big as Apple or Starbucks, it still carries the seed of that original mingling of nature and labor.  Its success is still the property of its owner or owners, and no one else’s.

Now Obama wants to sweeps that fundamental principle aside.   “If you’ve been successful,” he told his Roanoke listeners, “you didn’t get there on your own.”  That’s because (goes the argument) your property depends on roads and bridges and police and fire departments (even though you paid for them in taxes), and the labor of your employees (even though you pay their wages, not the government).  So what you own, the president and others like him are saying, becomes in effect a public holding subject to rules of “fairness” and the “common good.”   

This doesn’t just gut the concept of private property; it opens the door to social chaos.   

Because if the government, or anyone else, feels that I’ve taken more than my fair share of that public holding, then they can help themselves–either through taxation (a power which, thanks to the ObamaCare Supreme Court decision, now looks virtually unlimited) or other, more violent means.  

In short, Occupy Wall Street has just found a new commander in chief, and his name is Barack Obama.

As for America’s business owners, they need to get a new president in November -- before what was said in Roanoke becomes more than just words.  

Historian Arthur Herman is author "The Cave and the Light: Plato Versus Aristotle, and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization" (Random House 2013).