Those of us familiar with the workings of contemporary American higher education should not be surprised at President Obama’s assertion that “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that, somebody else made that happen.” For years, decades really, the academic Left has promulgated a Marxist reading of our culture, in which some groups, or classes, have been ”privileged” at the expense of others, and should be made to pay compensation. Even those with a modest, middle-class, standard of life were meant to understand that they had done nothing to earn it, but should see it as the result of the unjust distribution of goods and of such left-wing abstractions as “white-skin privilege.”
Supposedly unearned privilege was also one of the arguments made in support of affirmative action: White men had enjoyed decades of special favor and therefore it was time to grant compensation to women and minorities in order that all the designated groups be equal in all outcomes. This is what is called “social justice,” really a devious inversion of actual justice and contrary to the American way. The notion that white men could be considered a discrete class throughout history and that individual white men of today should pay for the purported privileges of white men in the past is a Marxist or quasi-Marxist idea, based on group or class identity, as in Communist vilification and punishment of the bourgeoisie. It should have found no place in our society, which is based for political purposes on the individual. That it did is a sign that the ideals of the Founding are not as universally held as conservatives claim, and that the rights mentioned in the Declaration of Independence are not “unalienable” unless the people are able to protect them against those who wish to destroy them.
What is surprising is that Obama made the remark in his position as president of the United States. One of the machinations of the Left has been to pretend to a more capacious reading of America, American values, American history, in national politics, and to work to undermine the country at subsidiary levels. In a way, Obama did us a favor in dropping the pretense and revealing the disdain in which he and his fellow leftists hold the ideals of our country, in this case, belief in individual initiative and merit.