Who Built What? – Obama’s Fallacy of Composition

You Didn’t Build That!

– By: Larry Walker, Jr. –

The “framework” is not a person, natural or legal, to whom a debt can be owed, “institutions” do not act, “society” has no mind, no will, and makes no contributions. Only persons do these things. Imputing responsibility and credit for accumulated wealth, current production and well-being to entities that have no mind and no will is nonsense. It is a variant of the notorious fallacy of composition. ~ Anthony de Jasay *

The fallacy of composition arises when one infers that something is true of the whole from the fact that it is true of some part of the whole. For example, Obama’s use of the fallacy surmises that, “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” In other words, if an individual owns a successful business, then the individual didn’t build it, but rather society as a whole built it. Thus, he concludes that the assets of all successful business endeavors, and any profit generated therefrom, whether owned by an individual, a partnership, corporation, or joint venture, really belong to society, not its owners.

But this is nothing new. Anthony de Jasay wrote about it in 2002, in his article entitled, Your Dog Owns Your House. Following the same line of fallacious reasoning, if an individual is a drug addict and derelict, then he didn’t get that way on his own either, but rather society made him so. Therefore, society owes all drug addicted derelicts a free pass to the nearest community owned rehabilitation center, as well as an equal piece of the collective economic pie. As such, one clouded by the fallacy of composition might make the following statement.

‘It always amazes me when someone says, “I became a drug addict and derelict on my own, and I take full responsibility for my actions and want to make things right.” Nah, nah, nah, you didn’t get that way on your own, society made that happen. You walked and drove over public roads and bridges that someone else built in your quest for dereliction. You had a teacher somewhere who influenced you to experiment with drugs. You didn’t become a derelict by yourself. Therefore you have no right to take responsibility for your actions and try to make things right. Society will rehabilitate you and make you whole.’ Does that sound familiar?

Yet, in spite of our omniscient government, approximately 7,000 high school students drop out every school day, which translates to one in three students. So extending Obama’s fallacious reasoning a bit further, it may be stated that an individual who decided to drop out of high school, to perhaps become a full-time gangbanger, didn’t make that decision on his own either, society made it for him. Somewhere along the way, teachers, police officers, judges, social workers, and politicians made a contribution. Thus, the fallacious would conclude that society owes the dropout not only an an equal piece of the collective economic pie, but a second chance to return to school and start over again, no matter how long it takes, the cost, or whether or not the individual is a willing participant.

Under Obama’s long-known fallacy, it’s damn free will, damn ingenuity, and damn hard work and tenacity, no one has ever accomplished anything on their own, good or evil. You are a product of society. Your dog owns your house. You have no right to the income produced by the sweat of your brow. There are no winners or losers. If you succeed, your wealth belongs to the state, and if you fail or don’t even try, then society will always bail you out.

Goose-stepping to the nth degree, it would follow that there is no difference between good and evil. All actions are created equal. The murderer, mass murderer, rapist, child rapist, kidnapper, thief, the avowed racist, down to the lowest level of the depraved, all have a right to share in the fruit of law-abiding, productive, citizens. There is no failure, and there is no success. We are all one. So it would follow that all prisoners should be freed, including terror suspects world-wide. And further, that all borders should be open to the poor across the globe, since they too have a right to share in the successes of those who are more fortunate.

Never mind that you studied day and night to perfect your craft, that you worked hard to get where you are, that you paid your own way, filed all your tax returns and paid all taxes due, are current on all your bills, and both you and your record are clean. To the fallacious, you deserve no more than dropouts, do-nothings, freeloaders, tax cheats, deadbeats, drug addicts, derelicts or common criminals. These are the ends of Obama’s fallacy of composition. But we know better.

For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. ~ Hebrews 3:4

All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. ~ Proverbs 14:23

The borrower is servant to the lender. ~ Proverbs 22:7

For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” ~ 2 Thessalonians 3:10

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. ~ Isaiah 5:20

Photo Credit: Fallacy of Composition | The Fallacy-a-Day Podcast


Your Dog Owns Your House, by Anthony de Jasay | Library of Economics and Liberty

Book of Isaiah, Chapter 5 | Holy Bible

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