June 17, 2013

You know the phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Well, it takes a government (and my taxes and yours) to build (and sustain) a business, to create a community, to survive as a world.

Read The Self-Made Myth: And the Truth About How Government Helps Individuals and Businesses Succeed. Marvelous. Insightful. A wake-up call to all of us to change the silly talk in the U.S.

The story of the U.S. is the myth that each individual is responsible for “pulling him/herself up by the bootstraps”…the myth that you get what you deserve… As authors Brian Miller and Mike Lapham note, the self-made myth asserts that “individual and business success is the result of the personal characteristics of exceptional individuals, with little or no outside assistance.” In other words, you or I succeed or fail totally because of our own individual selves. The contributions of society are irrelevant.

The contributions of society are irrelevant? I went to school and college in public schools and a public university. Government finances the public schools. And when I was in college, government significantly financed my college education. The early immigrants (that would be all the original settlers of the U.S.) moved west – indiscriminately killing Native Americans – to grab land provided by the U.S. government.

And how about luck? If you were born white and male, you already have a leg (or a bootstrap) up on those who are not white and those who are female. The same holds true for being heterosexual. Or other factors like your financial inheritance, your neighborhood, your parent’s education, the era in which you were born. And so much more.

People like Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney and Fox news and the Tea Party – and all the other hyped up fact deniers – sell the self-made lie.

But the truth is, no man is an island, as John Donne said. I know (and so do you!) – for a fact – that “built-together” is the truth. And any honest individual knows the same thing. Just look around. Just pay attention. Stop the absurd rhetoric. Stop the inappropriate and distracting political chatter that fosters unemployment, increases the gap between rich and poor, destroys the middle class. Stop the injustice. Stop the class warfare.

The Self-Made Myth tells stories of major businesses – some you’ve heard of and some not. Stories about the Walk Disney Company and Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. Stories of young entrepreneurs and a technology business that we all use but don’t know about. All these stories – all these storytellers – give explicit examples of the built-together reality. All of these stories and storytellers deny the self-made myth. So do Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, Sr.

How ironic that those who are the most hurt by the self-made myth often vote for the “fact deniers,” the promoters of the stupid myth. Voting against one’s self interest…because you believe the self-made fantasy. 

So much of our public policy debates revolve around the conflict between the self-made myth and the built-together reality. It’s time to stop this absurdity. Read this book and get inspired. Then go speak out. Take action. Make change.

Or else, we could limp along and watch our country crumble. We could try Marie Antoinette’s approach. You remember. “They don’t have bread? Well, let them eat cake.” Oh. Wait. That’s what we do so much now.

Is this the society you want?

Filed under: Social Commentary


About Simone Joyaux

A consultant specializing in fund development, strategic planning, and board development, Simone P. Joyaux works with all types and sizes of nonprofits, speaks at conferences worldwide, and teaches in the graduate program for philanthropy at Saint Mary’s University, MN. Her books, Keep Your Donors and Strategic Fund Development, are standards in the field.

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