I try to stay apolitical with the column, but recent comments by the president about business achievement has started me pondering what really is ailing this country and our economy.
The comments came last Friday during a speech in Roanoke, Va. During a speech the president presented the idea that successful business owners could not have been successful without getting help from others along the way.
His now well publicized comments from the speech are "If you've got a business, you didn't build that … somebody else made that happen."
Being fair, the president is an incredible orator of prepared remarks, but I don’t think he’s all that effective "on the stump." In watching the whole speech, these comments were clearly not prepared remarks, but rather delivered as an informal point he was attempting to make, and giving him the benefit of the doubt I think the point he was trying to make was a distorted version of "we are all in this together."
If this was the concept he was trying to articulate, then the message is positive and true in many ways. In many important ways, however, it is also not true. In many ways we are all on our own. This is especially true in the areas of entrepreneurial and investment risk.
A free market economy cannot exist without the presence of business and financial risk. The individual’s willingness to risk capital today for a potential benefit in the future is literally the fuel that drives our economy.
Self-interest always is the motivating factor for taking on risk, and it is the miracle of the free market that in attempting to improve our own lives by accepting risk we are also able to create value and therefore improve the lives of others through the goods, services and employment created by our efforts and capital.
Whether intended or not, the president’s words served to diminish the merits of self-interest as the vital motivation that it is. When individuals feel self-interest will be hindered by society through government, they become scared, and scared people do not invest for the future.
The result is unproductive, yet safe investments such as government bonds are at all-time highs, while investors shun more dynamic investments in businesses and stocks. High unemployment and a weak economy are the consequence.
America has become a nation rooted in fear, and we will never build a better tomorrow while we are scared today.
In rebutting the misinterpretation of his speech the president has the opportunity to embolden the American people. Perhaps he needs to take a cue from another great Democratic orator and reinforce the message, “the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself."
The opinions are the writer's. F. Marc Ruiz is a local investment strategist and co-host of "Your Mind on Money" at noon Mondays on WLPR-FM 89.1 The Lakeshore. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.