A. Barton Hinkle on Barack Obama and "I, Pencil"


Most people would never accuse President Obama of memorizing Milton Friedman under the covers at night. Yet the patron saint of laissez-faire probably would not take as much exception as many Republicans have to Obama's comment in Roanoke three weeks ago that "if you've got a business—you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen."

Republicans have given Obama quite a rhetorical thrashing for that gaffe, and the attacks show little sign of letting up. 

All of this is a fresh gloss on an old debate. In 1934, FDR attacked what he called the notion of "the self-supporting man": "Without the help of thousands of others, any one of us would die, naked and starved."

Yet what journalist Elmer Davis once said of Roosevelt could be said as well of Obama: "You could not quarrel with a single one of his generalities." Nobody denies that man is a social being who relies on others from the moment he is born. Indeed, writes A. Barton Hinkle, when Obama said in Roanoke that "somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive," he could have cited Milton Friedman or any one of a dozen other free-market economists as evidence.