The Government DIDN'T Build THAT - Government Subsidization vs Real Entrepreneurship

By Ed Willing



Solyndra – Founded in 2005; received $528 million in government subsidies in 2009.
Result: Bankrupt in 2011. The Chinese and others made solar panels better and cheaper.

Samuel Langley – Tried to build first airplane in history. In 1900, U.S. government funded two flight attempts.
Result: Both times, Langley crashed his plane into the Potomac River. Shortly thereafter, the Wright brothers flew a plane with their own money.

Union Pacific Railroad – Founded in early 1860s with government money to build part of a transcontinental railroad.
Result: Bankrupt, and some officers of the railroad convicted of bribing Congressmen. JJ Hill and The Great Northern Railroad then built a transcontinental railroad with no corruption and no federal subsidies.

Edward Collins Steamship Company – Founded in 1840s to go from New York to England, and also received government subsidies in 1840s and 1850s.
Result: Bankrupt in 1858. Cornelius Vanderbilt successfully built ships to go from New York to England with no subsidies.

Government operated fur company – Founded in 1795 with federal money to compete with the British.
Result: Near bankruptcy, and shut down in 1822. John Jacob Astor built the American Fur Company in 1808 and flourished with no federal subsidies.


“If you’ve got a business–you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”

President Obama had some words for small business owners last week, reminding them that without Government subsidization, infrastructure, education dollars and loans, they would have never existed. Paternal dependence is the new economic bubble. Don’t you forget it.

The president suggested all business owners striking out on their own and fulfilling the American Dream are beholden to teachers, road-builders, bridge-builders, and other government workers. His reasoning of course, is to lead us to believing the wealthiest 1%, which now pays 38% of all income taxes, should pay even more.

By contrast, Mitt Romney stopped in Bowling Green, Ohio and spoke about the President’s words, and discussed the virtues of economic liberty and the dangers of government meddling in free markets. He then asked small business owners to stand. The crowd, without any cue, broke into spontaneous applause as Romney shouted “Thank you! Thank you!”

Which vision of America, and perspective of America’s most productive people do YOU want in a President? While Mitt Romney does not exactly embody traditional Conservative or Libertarian principles, and is more of a Rockefeller Republican than a Coolidge Constitutionalist, he certainly knows the meme a nation needs to pull itself out of the deepest and longest recession in its history. Praising the producers as well as the laborors as ONE CLASS of Americans is not just shrewd politics, but also distinctly American. The Founders would have been clapping with everyone else.

While we have much gratitude to share with our parents, LOCAL teachers, friends and business partners, we have very little obligation to position our ever-benevolent Government at the top of the credit list for our personal accomplishments. The audacity of the mindset is breathtaking.

Everything the Government touches languishes. Great ideas go to government programs to catatonically survive until a better idea comes along to make it an enterprise or industry. Brilliant minds are capable of big dreams when they enter a government institution, but soon fall into an undead state of think-tank do-nothingness and check-writing.

The Pentagon created a technology: the communication of computers, for its own security and efficiency. It took 20 years before businesses like Microsoft, Apple, IBM and AOL made the internet a commercial reality.

NASA landed on the moon and made space travel a reality, but we are now seeing the costs of this industry radically drop as entrepreneurs are finding ways to build rockets and capsules without $20,000 O-rings and $500 bolts. Tickets to space are predicted by the end of the decade.

Even the Federal Government’s foray into modical care for seamen of the late 18th century fell into terrible quality and cost issues that plague it the industry to this day. The best and most creative, affordable care is penalized with regulations that make it difficult for the free market to make health care truly competitive and transparent.


The federal government was designed by the Founders to protect the general welfare, not to facilitate its economic health. The concept of paternal government care, democracy, republicanism or managed economic markets were nothing new last century, or in theirs. In fact, the Founders, namely John Adams and Alexander Hamilton knew better than most the history of governments of old and what worked and what didn’t. They knew every great idea had failed eventually, and they determined to build a system that would balance itself when one part became imbalanced. The result would be vibrant, long term growth, economic wealth and what they perceived as the greatest of all, individual liberty.

They certainly accomplished just that. What’s amazing is that despite wars, mass immigration, rapid industrialization and a cultural melting pot, Americans succeeded because of the principles set in place by our Founders. These principles were very simple, and will never be out-dated:

Property – What you earn or buy is yours and cannot be confiscated without your consent

Protection – You have the right to protect your family and possessions by any means necessary

Rule of Law – A nation without laws is a breeding ground for anarchy. Equitable and fair justice by your peers

Personal Responsibility – Human nature is flawed, and altering the realities of failure or success kills responsibility

Limited Government – Because human nature is flawed, government is inherently at war with indivdual liberty. Limiting government, and keeping it as local as possible, minimizes the allure of power on the front end and limits the damage of corruption on the back end.

Republicanism – Pure Democracy has always led to anarchy and tyranny. Every time. Republican representation provides a protection between minorities and majorities, and a buffer between timely wisdom and emotional mobacracy.

When the Federal Government involves itself with subsidization, it alters these principles by perverting reality.

Property is no longer yours, it was given to you by the collective. Protection is no longer a right, because others have a stake in your estate. Rule of Law is questionable, because laws are altered to maintain the perverted relationship, or altogether ignored. Personal Responsibility is lost because success is never truly earned and appreciated, and failure is never truly feared, or learned from. Limited Government is impossible when it receives the power of the purse like a carrot and horse. It will naturally grow, manipulate and perpetuate its existence until it is much larger than intended even by those who enjoy utilizing it. Finally, Republics die when they focus on manipulating the masses they care for, rather than allowing the people to determine their own local fate.

The President was right, no one is an island. But the Government is certainly not an oasis. It infects, it corrupts and it controls. Even in the hands of good men, government is a dangerous tool and a tempting weapon. So the President was wrong, Government is not the answer. A free community is.


Texan farmers wanted government assistance in 1887, but President Cleveland vetoed the bill and warned they stand to lose their liberty if they’re willing to sacrifice for security. 50 years later, farmers wanted help, so President Roosevelt attacked an Ohio farmer for growing wheat on his land during the Great Depression, for his own consumption. They ordered his wheat destroyed and charged him a debilitating fine claiming he was manipulating market prices by not buying wheat on the open market.

Conservative, self-reliant men and women still rely on family, friends, neighbors and local government for their success, but not without the Founding Principles being in place. Government exists to protect and execute the rule of law, not to manage the nature its intended to limit.

Henry Ford once said, “Money doesn’t change men, it merely unmasks them.” When you centralize that dangerous reality, you include everyone in the misery of human nature in the name of saving us from it.

Americans everywhere, in construction industries, local schools, entertainment, news, technology, research, manufacturing and services must learn from history that while rejecting government support makes their dreams riskier, the liberty they’ll retain with their coming riches are a far greater reward than the harsh reset failure occasionally forces us to tolerate.

Economic Development groups, School Boards, Research Facilities… seek your success among the private sector and loosen yourself from the chains of Government money; build yourself with those around you, not the government, or you’ll end up the footnote in history, rather than the headline.

Just ask Edward Collins. Who? Exactly.