Only Robinson Crusoe did it alone — and then only until Friday came along

And note that not even he made the musket, or the hatchet.

Since I’m not at the paper any more, it fell to Cindi Scoppe to write this column that ran today, basically addressing the orgy of indignation among the libertarians who call themselves conservatives over President Obama’s unfortunate choice of words in explaining the painfully obvious fact that practically no one in our crowded, interdependent world achieves anything worthwhile alone:

A LOT OF what the president says and does is ripe for criticism. But what he said the other day about no one being an island, about how our parents and our communities and our teachers and mentors and, yes, our government all contributed to our success is not one of those things.

If you’re wondering who in the world would criticize such obvious commentary, it’s because you don’t recognize the full context of that bizarre, ridiculous, one hopes bungled quote that came in the middle of it: “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”…

Of course business owners built their businesses — unless they inherited them or bought them from someone who did. Their initiative and hard work and luck set them apart.

As important as parents are to our success, one sibling can create a multi-billion-dollar business while another languishes on welfare. As much as we need good teachers, even the best have some students who drop out of school. Although government policy can give some businesses a leg up, others can go bankrupt even with too-generous government grants.

That’s because some people have initiative, and some do not. Some people are creative, and some are not. Some people are smart, and some are not. And while the schools can affect which group any individual is in, government does not eliminate those basic differences.

At the same time though, the vast majority of people who own businesses would not have been able to do that if we didn’t have a monetary system and a court system and roads and police and other functions of government. The vast majority of people who have any sort of success would not have it in a world without government. In fact, they wouldn’t have it if not for the peculiar kind of government that our country embraced from the start: self-government.

Can, and should, our government be more efficient? Of course so. Is there room to debate whether the government should bail out the banks or the auto industry or help pay for our medical care? By all means. Is there a legitimate question as to whether taxes are too high or too low? Certainly.

But the vast majority of Americans would not have the lives we take for granted — lives that are inconceivably luxurious compared to the lives lived by the overwhelming majority of people throughout human history — if it weren’t for our flawed but better-than-any-alternatives government.

Seems to me Cindi was being slightly over-cautious in saying that only “the vast majority of people” would have gotten nowhere without the basic conditions — civil order, rule of law, basic infrastructure — that are provided through the processes we call “government.” I suppose there are some to whom that doesn’t apply, but very few. It’s even harder to think of anyone who accomplished anything worthwhile completely and utterly alone — without anyone, whether you’re talking about government or not.

I suppose there’s Robinson Crusoe — that is, until Friday came along. This reminds me of an economics exercise we did in high school. We had to suppose we were stranded on a desert island, and we had to allocate our resources — which included time, and effort — so as to survive. This much time building a shelter out of available materials meant that much less time spent gathering food. X amount of time spent making a tool that would facilitate building that shelter cuts the construction time, leaving more time to weave a net to make fishing easier, etc.

A castaway who is completely alone can create something useful — to him, anyway — without anyone else’s involvement. But a business, in our crowded society? Well, to start with, you have to have customers. And then, depending on your business, there are suppliers, and vendors providing services that it would be inefficient to perform yourself. And as you grow, there are employees who become essential to your further growth, etc. Without the willing participation of those often vast networks of people, you can work and create all you want, but you’re not getting anywhere.

The extreme libertarians would put government in another category from just “people.” But in our system, the government and the people are the same thing. “Government” is just the word for the set of arrangements that we have among us, the people, for handling certain things that are best handled that way, such as building roads or deepening a port or passing and enforcing the laws without which the concept of private property is meaningless.

In fact, if I had a quibble with Cindi’s column, it would be that, in her litany of things for which government is essential, she kept referring to government as “it.” As in, “It creates and maintains a monetary system,” and “It provides a civil justice system…”

Given the screwy way so many of our neighbors these days think of government, that can be misunderstood as government being some separate entity that provides certain things to us, the people. But it’s not that at all. A better word than “it” would be “we,” because government is simply the process through which we create and maintain a monetary system, provide a civil justice system, and so forth.

Government does not give or take away. It’s just the arrangements through which we, the people, do certain things that we decide, through our system of representative democracy, are best done that way.

68 thoughts on “Only Robinson Crusoe did it alone — and then only until Friday came along

  1. Doug Ross

    I see she threw that ever elusive “luck” into her equation. Luck is a single occurence. Other than lottery winners, luck plays a miniscule role in determining winners and losers over any extended period of time. And most lottery winners end up being losers in the long run because they lack the basic skills to manage their opportunity.

    Let’s see a breakdown of just how much you think the following factors contribute to any individuals success in life:


    Here’s my assessment:

    Luck: 1%
    Government: 9%
    Parents: 20%
    Self: 70%

    We all start with the same government at our disposal. The ones who contribute the most to the government are the ones who rely on it the least.

  2. Brad

    Doug, even supposing that you could actually break down the factors playing into the unbelievably complex processes of human endeavor numerically, into percentages, wouldn’t you think those percentages would shift from situation to situation, day to day, even second to second?

    Here you are, slogging along with this great idea you thought of sorta kinda all by your lonesome, and investing huge amounts of blood, sweat and tears in it day after day, and your theoretical 70 percent just isn’t enough — nobody’s paying attention; your idea’s not catching on, or maybe people are interested but no one will invest.

    And then one day Bill Gates is doing a search on something totally unrelated that happens to contain a keyword that accidentally brings him to your site, and he is totally sold and buys your business for a billion dollars.

    On that day, luck was a biggy.

  3. Doug Ross

    Nope. It doesn’t work that way. Lucky people don’t create entire industries. It’s about events and responses and those responses are based on skills.

    Your hypothetical guy who has the great idea doesn’t have the skills to make it into a product.

    There are people who might have and idea but it takes people to execute on the idea. Remember AOL? Remember Netscape? Remeber Lotus 1.2.3? They were all “lucky” at one point, right? Then what happened? Nobody stole their business away – they lost it by not having the right people in the right places to build upon the base. Look at Apple – let’s see what impact losing Steve Jobs has on the company five years from now.

    The market decides winners and losers except when the government tries to stack the deck.

  4. Doug Ross

    How much of Warren Buffett’s wealth would you attribute to luck? This is a man who went from nothing to one of the richest guys in the world. Not through one event but through thousands of transactions using his own brain power to read the market. It’s a skill – no different from someone who can hit a major league fastball 400 feet. Some have it, some don’t.

  5. Tim

    Biggest aspect of it all is luck. What were the odds of you even being born? Then born when? Then born where?

  6. Brad

    Right. And no matter how hard you work, no matter how much time you spend with the batting coach, you’ll never be able to develop Ted Williams’ ability to see the seams on the ball turning as it comes to him. Some have it, most don’t.

    Reminds me of Chuck Yeager. A lot of his success as first a fighter pilot, then a test pilot, was hard work. He was known for his obsession for detail, thoroughly checking over his aircraft. It wasn’t just seat-of-the-pants bravado like in the movie. But then there was this uncanny ability he had — he could actually see German fighters coming from 50 miles away, a huge advantage in those days before aircraft were equipped with radar. He was like Superman. It helps to be born on Krypton. (And if you’re born on Krypton, it helps if your Dad is Jor-El, and happens to have a test rocket ship in the garage. Because everybody else on the planet blew up.)

  7. Brad

    Riffing on Yeager… after he was shot down (hey, nobody’s perfect) and escaped from behind enemy lines with the help of the Underground, that was supposed to be it. After that, you go home, because you are a security threat to the Resistance if you ever do fall into German hands.

    But Yeager got an interview with Eisenhower, and Ike made a special exception for him, so he went on to fly P-51s and be one of the few to shoot down one of the new Messerschmidt jets.

    I wonder how many steps up the line he, an enlisted man (flight officer), had to go through to get into the office of the Supreme Commander? It probably helped at each step that he had become an ace in one day, shooting down five enemy planes on a single mission. But at each step, he could have run into the wrong guy who could have gone all Regular Army on him and refused to pass him along…

    The thing is, you can’t calculate how much of that is “luck,” or how much of the same fuzzy quality plays into whether his canopy opened or was jammed when he bailed out, or the difference between a chunk of flak hitting your fuel line, or missing it by a whisker…

    There are always, always, ALWAYS uncontrollable factors. And even though you have done yeoman’s work in doing everything you can to be prepared for the moment, they can sometimes be as stark as ones and zeros in a binary system. This happens, you live; that happens, you die.

    But to bring us back to our point: No matter how brilliant a pilot Yeager was or how hard he worked at being the best, he was nothing without his ground crew, or the thousands of people back in the aircraft factory, or the millions buying war bonds. He didn’t get there alone, and it probably would never have occurred to him that he could have. People used to understand “We’re all in this together” much more instinctively in those days…

  8. Doug Ross

    He couldn’t get there alone but nobody else got where he got to.

    The same crews supported the guys who didn’t succeed.

    Like I said, we all have the same government at our disposal. It’s up to the individual to do something with it.

  9. Doug Ross

    The guy driving to his minimum wage job uses the same roads as Bill Gates does. Except Gates paid a whole lot more for the roads than the other guy. Thank you rich guys for providing the infrastructure for the rest of us!

  10. Brad Warthen

    Yep, and before he got rich, the rest of us paid for the roads Gates used in getting to where he is.

    We’re all in this together, and no one get to where he is (for good or ill) completely by his own exertions. We’re all part of the complex web of human interactions that give capitalism its dynamism.

  11. Brad

    Now, now… TARP was unusual. And it should be noted that the people who get most indignant about Obama’s statement — the one who feel their whole belief system is being directly contradicted — tend to be people who are also ticked off about TARP.

    But here’s the thing about TARP, to a pragmatic person on either the right or left (which is why both Republicans and Dems were for it): It wasn’t about what this or that individual or corporation deserved or had earned, or any of that other stuff that people get so worked up about.

    It was about the idea that it was worth it, as a society, for us to spend those public funds to prevent a financial system collapse that would have been disastrous to the entire economy. That was the point. Debate the efficacy of the move all you want — did it work, could it have worked, was it too much, too little, etc. But that was the point.

    What I just said, by the way, describes the point where a lot of our public discussions break down.

    Take Obamacare. For me, it’s about what is the rational way to make healthcare available and affordable that works best for our economy overall. For me, a risk pool containing everyone, with everyone paying in, which NO ONE can lose if they go off and take a risk starting a new business or something, is the system most likely not only to make access to care universal, but free up our economy from the ill effect of people hanging onto dead-end jobs for the bennies. I think of it systemically, in terms of the aggregate effect, and whether that is a likely effect, and one we want.

    Others, on both sides of the debate, inject all this emotion by talking about what people deserve. On the left, you have people going on about health care as a “right,” which everyone “deserves,” and they get really upset with the Blue Meanies who don’t want people to get what they “deserve.” On the right you have people getting EXTREMELY indignant that maybe somebody who doesn’t “deserve” care by their lights — someone who doesn’t pay into the system, or (HORRORS!) an illegal alien, might get treatment under such a system. This sends them right over the edge.

    I don’t look at it that way. I look at whether a proposed arrangement (single payer, say, if anyone had the guts to seriously propose it) makes more sense, is likely to work better, than our existing non-system of catch-as-catch-can.

    It causes for a lot of cognitive disconnects…

  12. Steven Davis II

    “For me, a risk pool containing everyone, with everyone paying in”

    How do you figure? If I decide not to have insurance and get caught having the ability to afford to pay I get taxed $200 by the IRS. If the level of treatment is the same, why would some self-employed person pay several thousands of dollars in premiums when they know they can get the same level of treatment and only have to pay a small tax penalty?

  13. Doug Ross

    “Yep, and before he got rich, the rest of us paid for the roads Gates used in getting to where he is.”

    So Gates has paid back his share and far, far more… but that is not enough. We must take even more.

    How about I loan you $1000 (me helping you) and then you pay me back the $1000 and keep on paying for the rest of your life? And when your income goes up, you can pay me more.

    Some people are net contributors and most are net recipients. The current meme is that those who give the most back should be grateful to those who take the most for existing.

  14. Doug Ross

    And let’s not forget that those who pay the most into the government by force of law also are the people who contribute the most to charities willingly.

    Gates and Buffett are giving back 95% of their wealth… fortunately NOT to the government but to programs they believe are efficient and useful.

  15. Brad

    Doug, if you stake me $1,000 and I manage to turn it into a billion, I’ll happily pay you a thousand a month for the rest of your life.

    Do we have a deal?

  16. Tim

    I was not opposed to TARP. It was the worst best solution at the time, according to the very terrified people in charge of the Western World. I remember experts telling us to get cash out of the ATM’s and that McDonalds would not be able to make payroll because there was no short-term credit, and companies depend on that.

    I was not happy about all the reasons that necessitated it. I remember distinctly driving around Columbia in 2007, pointing out to an Australian friend of mine all of the oddly vacant new developments that did not make sense to me, including all those condo’s down by Williams Brice Stadium. I am not the most worldly person, but I didn’t know anyone who would want a condo, surrounded by an industrial park with no amenities or restaurants nearby, so they could have a convenient way to party 6 weekends out of the year. I couldn’t imagine someone making that pitch to a banker, and then getting that banker to nod enthusiastically.

    But those were the folks in charge, and everything I heard was that if we didn’t bail them out, there would be no cash in ATM’s and Walmart and McDonalds couldn’t make payroll.

  17. Scout

    Doug, the problem with your theory is that you have no control for the data you are looking at. You can point to examples of people who have certain skills who succeeded, but you have no data to tell you how many other people with the same skills did not succeed. Without such data it is impossible to conclude that the skills, or the skills alone, were the reason for the success. I’m sure you would respond that if the others did not succeed, that proves they did not have the same skills. And I guess that is the crux of the disagreement. I believe two people with the exact same skills will achieve different levels of success depending on the specific circumstances they each encounter. If you happen to be lucky enough (yes lucky) to be a skilled person in more favorable circumstances then you will achieve more success than a person of the very same skills in less favorable circumstances. Do you really believe that statement is not true?

    The thing is if you happen to be one of the ones who has benefited from more favorable circumstances it is really easy to be blind to the roll that circumstances have played in your success.

    I think what Obama is saying is that in the world of business particularly, if you have a successful business, there is no way your business could function as successfully as it does without the benefit of infrastructure that government provides.

  18. j

    Doug what % would you attribute to good health? I presume that would be parents and genetics. Wonder what your personal % you’d assign if you’d been born a minority.

    “The ones who contribute the most to the government are the ones who rely on it the least.” Doug, give us a break! You can’t be serious.

    We’re still waiting on your announcement that you’re running for an elected office to serve others.

  19. Scout

    “It’s even harder to think of anyone who accomplished anything worthwhile completely and utterly alone — without anyone, whether you’re talking about government or not.

    I suppose there’s Robinson Crusoe”


    I don’t think you can even count Robinson Crusoe. He wasn’t on that island all his life. What he was able to accomplish on the island alone was a product of all the support he got in his developmental years that made him the person he became.

    And to me that is the ultimate circumstantial difference that counts. Whether you are born into poverty or not can make a big difference (not the only difference) in whether you receive adequate mental and physical stimulation in the early years that calibrates your brain for the rest of your life. There are opposite examples in both circumstances – being born into opulence or poverty – but on the whole being born into poverty makes it far more likely young children will have challenges getting all the attention, stimulation, interaction, and nutrition they need to be healthy and achieve their mental potential. Further, research seems to be showing that these early environmental deficits likely create lifelong effects. There are windows in brain development that close without the right stimulation at the right time. So whether you are born into poverty or opulence is very consequential also completely circumstantial.

  20. Karen McLeod

    Doug, you say “luck” is 1%. I take it that you chose your parents, and chose the exact genes that you inherited. Did you also chose not to develop a permanently debilitating disease or have an accident that caused a permanent disability? If you did not choose these things, then you might want to reflect on the inherent and environmental factors that could have changed your life and affected your choices at any point. Having worked with the mentally retarded and their families professionally for years, I know, and am thankful, that I’m one of the ‘lucky ones.’ Bad luck at any point could have made my life much worse.

  21. Doug Ross

    Andrew Sullivan has the right take on Obama’s quote:

    “And look: my own view is that, sure, government helps the individual in a market economy. Without a strong government, there is no effective market economy. Unlike some contemporary conservatives, apparently, I have read Adam Smith. I had a government-paid education through college that was among the best in the world. My healthcare as a kid was socialized. The fact that I have managed to make a living through writing was undoubtedly helped, nourished and sustained by public sector investment – not least of which was the Internet itself, made possible by defense spending.

    But whatever success I have had is also due to my own efforts. I was the first in my family to go to college and became a classic American immigrant – arriving with a scholarship and now living my own small version of the American Dream. Six other people now have jobs because I spent six years blogging for nothing. Producing the kind of output on the Dish for twelve years is something you have to be devoted to. It takes real elbow grease. I’m ok with paying half my income to various levels of government as the price of having this opportunity, but I’d rather not be told I’m lucky not to pay much more. Or that I somehow owe much of it to someone else I don’t know.”

  22. Bart

    “How much of Warren Buffett’s wealth would you attribute to luck? This is a man who went from nothing to one of the richest guys in the world.”…Doug


    You might want to rethink your comment. Buffett’s father owned a stock brokerage firm and Warren was no stranger to the stock market. Young Warren worked at his father’s firm and when he went to Wharton Business School, he already had a leg up on everyone else in his class. And, his father was also a member of the House of Representatives so it is not accurate to portray him as someone who started with nothing.

    He was a one-percenter from the beginning. This is not to say he did not earn his fortune, he most certainly did. He is very good at what he does and his acumen in the stock market and investments is about as good as it gets.

    Just thought it would be worthwhile pointing it out.

  23. bud

    I always get tickled by people like Doug who naively believe the super rich actually earn their riches. Above an income level of about $200k/year all wealth is pretty much all luck and perhaps a bit of thievery.

  24. Kathryn Fenner

    And if Buffett and Gates felt Scientology was useful, you’re down with that, instead of repairing bridges?

  25. Mark Stewart

    If one accepts the invisible hand of Capitalism, then how could one also not accept the twist of fate?

    If some people find it difficult to accept chaos in economics, perhaps it would be easier to view the phenomenon in evaluationary biology? Systems strive for perfection, but the process is hardly clean inside that process. The flow may not be entirely random; but it is most often predictable only in hindsight.

    Those words of Obama’s were some of the most bungled of Presidential utterings.

  26. Brad

    J, Doug did run for office — for school board — a number of years ago. He mentions the experience from time to time.

  27. bud

    Those words of Obama’s were some of the most bungled of Presidential utterings.

    Certainly the most bungled for Obama. Not sure he could top some of the classics from George W. Bush though.

  28. Bryan Caskey

    The “government” is the people. The money the “government” has is the people’s money. We don’t “owe” anything to the government. It’s simply what we all decided to do together. I already paid for the roads that “someone else built”.

    The other problem with “You didn’t build that…” is that it doesn’t account for the idea of risk.

    Risk is the whole deal in starting your own venture. However, since the person who said “You didn’t build that…” has never actually built anything on his own in the private sector, I’m happy to cut him some slack.

    Bless his heart, he just doesn’t know any better.

  29. Doug Ross

    So eliminating all the sick people, what separates the 90% of the rest of us? Talent and effort.

    There are smart people and dumb people. Hard workers and lazy people. People with good social/communication skills and jerks. If you’re on the good side of two of those three, you’re probably doing fine. Steve Jobs was a hard working, brilliant jerk. To say luck was a big part of his success is just dumb. He had successes and failures over multiple decades and in the end the successes due to his efforts far exceeded the failures. That was his doing… not the doing of the luck fairy.


    I give back in ways that aren’t enforced by laws according to the whims of people who think charity begins with taxes.

  30. Doug Ross


    Above 200K is due to luck or thievery?

    The President makes $400K. Sounds about right in his case. If there ever was someone who lucked his way to the top, it’s Obama. And now he’ll lie to keep the job.

    It’s too bad you can’t accept that some people are just better at earning money than you are.

  31. j

    Brad, thanks for the info. Like my old state rep friend says (having stood for 8 successful elections) that those individuals who said that they voted for you normally didn’t. I found a previous comment.

    “Candidates can stand outside polling places. I did (along with others) when I ran for school board in 2002. It was surprising how many people came up to me afterward and said they voted for me just because I was standing there. Had I had several clones, I may have pulled off a victory since I only spent $500 on signs (one of the primary factors in down ballot races).” It takes more than $s & signs to win, it takes hard work and credibility.

  32. Juan Caruso

    “…’the vast majority of people’ would have gotten nowhere without the basic conditions — civil order, rule of law, basic infrastructure — that are provided through the processes we call ‘government.'” – Brad

    None of which would matter without a commensurate military defense capability, which is required by about half of federal government’s enumerated powers. As a matter of fact, our U.S. Constitution (Article 1, section 8) also provides for the very ‘rule of law’ that you selectively did cite.

  33. Steven Davis II

    @bud – “I always get tickled by people like Doug who naively believe the super rich actually earn their riches. Above an income level of about $200k/year all wealth is pretty much all luck and perhaps a bit of thievery.”

    So bud, would you say the administration, such as Harris Pastides, at USC are a bunch of thieves?

    It’s good to know that there’s a dollar figure denoting honest workers and dishonest workers. People can feel good about themselves up to the $199,999 mark.

  34. Steven Davis II

    How many people who consider themselves “unlucky” do little more than sit around and tell people that? The majority of them could improve themselves if they attempted to do so. You don’t get anywhere sitting around complaining how bad you have it.

  35. Kathryn Fenner

    Lie to keep his job?

    I voted for Obama because I liked what he said. If I had voted for Hillary Rodham Clinton, it would have been because she is female. I doubt Obama received many more votes because he is half black–you think those people who would have voted for someone just because he is black we’re potential McCain voters?

    Now, if a black Republican got elected…..

  36. Brad

    As to Scout’s point (“I don’t think you can even count Robinson Crusoe.)…

    That’s what I was trying to suggest in my cutline under that picture. He may have made his hat, but someone else made the musket and hatchet he relies upon.

    Not to mention the fact that he wouldn’t even have been a castaway without the shipbuilders, and the crew that sailed the ship to its untimely end, and whoever else was involved in whatever caused him to be aboard the ship, etc…

    What’s the first thing a shipwrecked castaway does? He tries to get every useful thing he can (pretty much all stuff made by other people) out of the ship while he can, because those are things he can’t make himself.

    I guess a better example would be Tarzan — orphaned in the jungle, alone with no resources.

    Of course, there was one thing even he needed and couldn’t provide on his own. Maureen O’Sullivan brought that.

  37. David

    If you take away the strange “you didn’t build that” comment, the President’s remarks are pretty obvious. His summary point:

    “The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.”

    So if what we do together through government is so critical — and it is — to our success both as individuals and as a nation, then why in this same speech does the President continue his pledge to not ask another dime for it from 98% of the population?

    If our government is necessary to all of us to be successful, then we should all be responsible for seeing that it is adequately funded. It’s too bad the President doesn’t believe that.

  38. bud

    Would it be possible for any single individual to build a television set? No matter how knowledgeable they are about the workings of a TV they would still need exceptional skills and knowledge to pull it off. He would have to mine the raw materials with his bare hands because he couldn’t rely on machines since someone else built them. Then he would have to craft the parts by hand or either craft the machinery by hand that is used to craft the parts. Then he would have to put all the parts together with tools he built by hand. And while he’s doing all this how would he eat? What kind of shelter would he live in? What kind of clothes would he wear?

    It is simply an absurd argument to say than anyone, and most especially the very rich, are entirely responsible for their wealth. And frankly this is a bit like trying to convince someone that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow morning. There are some situations that are just too grounded in fact to warrant extensive arguments.

  39. Brad

    Yes — on what you said about the TV.

    It’s ironic that there should be this huge swath of the electorate embracing radical, yeoman-farmer-style individualism in an era when we are surrounded by examples of how the prosperity we enjoy illustrates our interdependence.

    No. No one person can make, from raw materials found in the wilderness, a TV. Or an iPhone. Or a computer. Or a toaster, for that matter. Even the most innovative inventor today is dependent on a long list of discoveries made before him. The people who develop apps and sell their companies to Google for a billion dollars are the proverbial pygmies standing on the shoulders of giants. (Reminds me of the creationist joke: Man announces that he can now make life, and has supplanted God. God says go ahead, show me — make a man. Man says OK, watch — first, we mine this element and this one… God interrupts: No. You use your OWN dirt…)

    May this uber-individualist, I-only-need-me political movement, represented at its elite end by the Club for Growth and at its populist end by the Tea Party, is a reaction to people’s semi-realization of just how interdependent they are.

    I don’t know. But the contrast between the interdependent way we all live today and the life of the frontier farmer in Jefferson’s day couldn’t be more stark.

  40. Brad

    Something just struck me — in the ultimate libertarian fantasy, Ayn Rand’s “Anthem,” our intrepid anti-collectivist hero discovers electricity, all by his lonesome, when he inadvertently jolts the leg of a dead frog with a copper wire.

    It just now occurred to me — where did he get the copper wire, in a world which still celebrates the (relatively) recent invention of the candle? For what purpose would the copper wire have been manufactured?

  41. Brad

    Oh, wait… I just looked back and found the answer: He FOUND the copper wires underground, left over from our own pre-apocalypse era.

    So in other words, he was entirely dependent on others in our super-interconnected society for his brilliant “solo” discovery…

  42. Tim

    Tarzan had all the material and literature from the shipwreck. He read and wrote perfect English, but spoke in a French accent because his first human tutor was French. That said, it does demonstrate the best educational system would be to strand infants on deserted islands inhabited by cannibalistic anthropoid apes.

  43. Brad

    And we could implement that simple, common-sense solution to our education woes, if only the hateful educrats and their socialist allies would get out of the way!

  44. Brad

    I’m embarrassed that I didn’t know what Tim just said, having never read Edgar Rice Burroughs. I’ve just seen the movies…

  45. Doug Ross

    Apparently, all the components are there for you, bud, to make $200K or more. You can make whatever you want to make because the roads are there, you had a free government education. All the pieces are there for you to claim your your fortune. Or is something stopping you?

    A while ago you claimed that running a Subway was a guaranteed money maker. I assume you went down to the bank and have opened your store by now because who would turn up a surefire easy path to money?

    Brad – you also have all the means at your disposal to double or triple your income. What’s stopping you? Just get out there and build on all the hard work everyone else has done. It’s easy.

  46. Steven Davis II

    I bet when the Sunday paper is delivered at bud’s house with the Parade section that lists people income is an angry day around that household. A whole section devoted to hardworking people or crooks and thieves.

  47. Doug Ross


    ” It takes more than $s & signs to win, it takes hard work and credibility.”

    I got more votes in Richland 2 than Joe Lieberman got when running for President in the entire state of SC. I got several thousand votes and did well enough to finish in the top 3 in the precints where I was best known. I didn’t have the luxury of not having a fulltime job like two of the candidates – including the one whose husband spent $20K on signs.

    Down ballot races like school board rely on name recognition and being well-connected to the school district’s administration.

    At least I put my name out there with my opinions. How much credibility does an anonymous commenter have?

  48. Kathryn Fenner

    Tarzan, was, need I remind you, fiction, and he depended on the kindness of strangers who happened not to be human. Raised by wolves, say, is still raised by a community, a pack.

  49. j

    Doug, more than you’ll ever know. I’ve been in elective office serving citizens for more than 25 years.

  50. Tim

    Tarzan was fiction? Tarzan not fiction! Tarzan kill enemies with full nelson, famous wrestling move he discover on his own. Tarzan no like Tarzan movies, though. Mon Dieu, they are lame compared to book.

  51. j

    “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” John Q Adams

    One’s success is not 70% dependent on self, its a “team” effort and you should be thankful that you have had others who have been a major part of your being successful – whatever that may be.

  52. Doug Ross


    Ahhh… that explains a WHOLE lot. Imagine an elected official unwilling to attach his name to his own opinions. Better to say one thing in public and another in private.

    That’s probably why I can’t win an election. I have standards.

  53. Brad

    Well… I’m not going to say it in such a self-lauding manner, but I have a similar problem.

    With me, it’s more like I could not shut up.

    To begin with, I would not be able to mouth the kinds of simplistic nostrums that seem to get people elected in South Carolina. I disagree with too many of them.

    But even when I AGREE with some lowest-common-denominator idea that is widely popular, I would find it hard to stop at the point where the majority is nodding and thinking, “He’s one of US!”

    I’d always want to go, “Yes, but…” and launch into some exception or extenuating consideration that would get me into trouble.

    Generally speaking, I manage to keep the interest of groups of people when I speak to them, even as I digress in a free-association manner. And I get good reviews from the people who hear me. But I don’t think that means they’d VOTE for anyone who blathered on the way I do…

  54. Steven Davis II

    “I’ve been in elective office serving citizens for more than 25 years.”

    I love when career politicians say things like that. Like they’re working for us, not for their ego.

  55. j

    Doug, your self-objectivity assessment may need some fine tuning as your straight talk was not the reason for your not getting elected. Why did you give up after your first effort as I thought working hard was 70% of your personal success and your standards. You’re not a part of my constituency just as I’m not a member of your Sunday School Class.

  56. Burl Burlingame

    Brad may not know that I once worked for Edgar Rice Burroughs (Inc.) as an illustrator, and yep, I read ALL the books. Even “The Moon Maid” and “The Bandit of Hell’s Bend.”

  57. Doug Ross


    I have a job that requires me to travel out of state 4 nights a week. I could not serve on the school board since their meetings are on Tuesday.

    How do you know why I wasn’t elected? I do know that my views were not in sync with the district administration. Lies were spread about my opinions. A high level district administration employee told me that if I did win, my wife would lose her job as a library assistant. The district does all it can to elect a rubber stamp board.

    Too bad you are too scared to make your opinions known. I bet that’s a useful trait to get elected. Just tell ’em what they want to hear and keep collecting those checks.

  58. Doug Ross


    Would John McCain ever been a U.S. Senator unless he had been lucky enough to be a prisoner of war?

    Would Rudy Guiliani ever been able to run for President and become a multi-millionaire without the good fortune of having terrorists attack New York on his watch?

    Would Ronald Reagan’s stature been lower had he not been blessed with getting shot while in office?

    Luck is bunk. Events and responses is what matters.

  59. Brad

    OK, I’m going to step in here, J, and say no more barbs aimed at Doug.

    As he correctly points out, he’s a made guy here on the blog because he uses his real name.

    I say that not to criticize you, but I do have a double standard here — people using their full, real names are allowed more leeway in their comments than those who don’t.

    Sorry. I appreciate your participation, but don’t keep trying irritate Doug…

  60. j

    I’m sorry Doug. Didn’t mean to irritate you but just relating to your posts and my perceptions of your comments.

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