Opinion
Republican Utah Sen. Mike Lee speaks at the "Million Vet March on the Memorials" at the U.S. National World War II Memorial in Washington Oct. 13, 2013. (REUTERS/Joshua Roberts) Republican Utah Sen. Mike Lee speaks at the "Million Vet March on the Memorials" at the U.S. National World War II Memorial in Washington Oct. 13, 2013. (REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)  

‘You didn’t build that,’ conservative style

Photo of Yaron Brook and Steve Simpson
Yaron Brook and Steve Simpson
Executive Director, Director of Legal Studies, Ayn Rand Institute
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      Yaron Brook and Steve Simpson

      Dr. Yaron Brook (MBA, University of Texas at Austin; PhD, Finance, University of Texas at Austin) is the executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute. He is a columnist at Forbes.com, and his articles have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Investor’s Business Daily, and many other publications. He is a frequent guest on national radio and television programs and is a contributing author to both Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea and Winning the Unwinnable War: America’s Self-Crippled Response to Islamic Totalitarianism. Dr. Brook is co-author with ARI fellow Don Watkins of the national best-seller Free Market Revolution: How Ayn Rand’s Ideas Can End Big Government. A former finance professor, he speaks internationally on such topics as the causes of the financial crisis, the morality of capitalism, ending the growth of the state, and U.S. foreign policy.
      Dr. Brook was born and raised in Israel. He served as a first sergeant in Israeli military intelligence and earned a BSc in civil engineering from Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel. In 1987 he moved to the United States, where he received his MBA and Ph.D. in finance from the University of Texas at Austin; he became an American citizen in 2003. For seven years he was an award-winning finance professor at Santa Clara University, and in 1998 he cofounded a financial advisory firm, BH Equity Research, of which he is presently managing director and chairman.

      Steve Simpson is the Director of Legal Studies at the Ayn Rand Institute. A former Senior Attorney at the Institute for Justice, Steve has litigated constitutional cases in the U.S. Supreme Court and state and federal courts throughout the nation on a wide variety of issues. He was the lead litigator in SpeechNow.org v. FEC, the case that created Super PACs, and has been involved in many other campaign finance, free speech and other constitutional cases. Steve has spoken and written widely on constitutional issues, he has appeared on many television and radio programs, including PBS News Hour and the Stossel show, and his writings have appeared in many publications, including the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Legal Times, the Chicago Tribune, Slate. Prior to joining IJ, Steve worked in private practice for 6 years and clerked for a federal judge. He is a member of the bars of the District of Columbia, New York, and New Jersey.

With Obamacare in shambles and President Obama proposing his newest one-year plan to fix it, Republicans are experiencing a moment of schadenfreude. That’s understandable, but focusing on the Democrats’ failures will not lead the Republicans to success. Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) understands this, and he is busy trying to articulate the Republican vision for America. Unfortunately, while the senator’s fans may view him as a champion of free enterprise, Lee’s vision isn’t fundamentally different from the president’s.

We know what President Obama’s vision is. America is a welfare state in which wealth and prosperity don’t come from free individuals working hard to improve their lives and be happy. They come from society. “No single person can train all the math and science teachers,” or “build the roads and networks and research labs,” said the president in his second inaugural address. Instead, “we must do these things together, as one nation and one people.”

This is the vision of “you didn’t build that.” Everyone built it. And if everyone built it — if “one nation and one people” are responsible for it — then why should you get to keep it? We know the left’s answer: you shouldn’t. Hence, businessmen, the wealthy — the hated “1 percent” — are castigated for their wealth, taxed to the hilt, and called upon to “give back.”

It is the vision of Obamacare. When the government is making medical and insurance decisions for “one nation and one people,” why would your desire to keep your own policy matter?

For the president and his allies, the essence of America is not individualism, but a mushy form of collectivism. Did you get good grades and major in something marketable? Did you work hard for that year-end bonus? Did you risk everything to build a successful business? You didn’t earn that! You are not ultimately responsible for your success, “we” are. And as “our” agent, the government’s job is to spread the fruits of your labors throughout society in the form of taxes, subsidies, and entitlements.

So what is Sen. Lee’s vision? A ringing endorsement of the American spirit of independence and productivity? Hardly.

“The United States did not formally launch our war on poverty in 1964, but in 1776,” the senator said at a recent Heritage Foundation poverty forum. Since then it “has waged the most successful war on poverty in the history of the world” by becoming the wealthiest nation on earth.

Really? American colonists fought the most powerful nation on earth as a precursor to a mid-20th century welfare program? Would it be too much to expect a simple “you did build that” from a senator put in office by the Tea Party? Apparently so.

“For all America’s reputation for individualism and competition, our nation has from the beginning been built on a foundation of community and cooperation.” Our political system is distinctive, according to Lee, not because it recognizes that we are independent individuals, but because it assumes that we are all dependent on one another. “Freedom means ‘we’re all in this together.’ The conservative vision for America is not an Ayn Rand novel. It’s a Norman Rockwell painting, or a Frank Capra movie: a nation ‘of plain, ordinary kindness, and a little looking out for the other fellow, too.’”

In short, the essence of America is … togetherness?