Friday, July 20, 2012

For Apollo 11

"For All Mankind" 1989 - Al Reinert

The pronominal antecedent of "that"

A recent speech by the President included this, which is generating quite a bit of heat:

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build [that that]. Somebody else made [that that] happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet. The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.

This is obviously being addressed to business owners. There are two possible readings indicated by the different colors (I'll get to the underlined portion later):

1. Red:  You didn't build the American system, nor the roads and bridges, nor the Internet. Government made these possible. (Should have used "those" if this is the case)

2. Blue: You didn't build your business, government made that possible.

Another possible 'penumbral or emanational' reading:

3. You didn't build your business alone, you have employees that helped.

Re 1:  This is undeniably true, when it comes to infrastructure, but what exactly is the point? Is the point that businesses both large and small, and the individuals who run them, are not paying enough in taxes for infrastructure?  Do they need to pay more?  As for the Internet and highway system, the precursors to today's Internet and highways were indeed created by Gubmint (DARPA in the former case). But subequent development of the former has been taken over by the private sector. Blame the private sector for your browser, not Uncle Sam, or DOD. 

It's true though, that DOD centered R & D does provide great spin-off tech that we all eventually enjoy. So, OK, that being the case, how is sequestering funding for DOD these days going to benefit the future consumer or private sector?

As for the 'American System'. Presumably, this refers to our economic and political system. If so, once again, what is the point?  Is the point that businesses are not doing enough to 'give back' to the country? Providing goods and services, as well as paying all the various taxes they must is not enough? Huh? He must mean they do not pay enough taxes, and the rates need to be hiked. How much is enough?

Re 2: This is the less plausible reading. The presence of the word "build" suggests reading number  #1. I think Romney is missing the mark here to score some rhetorical hits.

Re 3:  Employers pay employees, and provide other benefits. Is the suggestion that they need to pay more?

Lastly, in reference to the underlined bit, even applying the principle of charity, this is just silly. Government did not create the internet for the private sector so that it could rake in the lucre. Nope, it was created, by DARPA as a a way to hook up powerful research centers and their computing capabilities. Look it up. The Lucre Raking, LOL Cats and Memes were spinoff bennies of that DARPA research. Nothing more.