The Power of One

If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” Barack Obama, Roanoke, VA July 13, 2012

Thomas Edison tried over 1,000 times to come up with the successful process to make an incandescent light bulb work. When someone remarked that he had failed 1,000 times, he said, “I have successfully discovered 1,000 ways to not make a light bulb.” Other men might have given up and failed. Edison was one man with a determination to succeed.

Once he had found the one correct way, he announced it to the world and performed endless demonstrations to prove its worth and safety. Finally he was ready to bring it into practical use. To bring the world electric light, Edison offered to build the complete infrastructure necessary to light homes in a specific section of New York City.

Immediately, the gas light industry felt the threat and attempted to use the power of government to stop Edison. “The streets would be torn up for two years.” “It would inconvenience citizens.” And the classic argument, “the gas pipes are already in place and providing light.” In other words, don’t mess with the order of things with new ideas. Business run thorough government power and control (public/private partnerships) kills entrepreneurship and human progress.

Today, Barack Obama’s White House is flooded in electric light. His Administration’s attitude to Edison’s invention that “brought us from darkness?” Ban it and force consumers to use less illuminating environmentally correct florescent lights that were developed through government edict and taxpayer-funded grants. Consumers don’t want them – government does.

Prior to the invention of the electric light, Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell went into fierce competition over the creation of the telephone. One held the patents on the sender, the other held patents on the receiver. Each worked around the clock to invent around the other’s patents in order to wholly control the telephone. Working to get the upper hand over other, Edison and Bell deployed crews to build the infrastructure to bring the telephone into every home. Because of their fierce competition, the telephone‘s development soared, making it much more valuable and reliable. Each new improvement by one of the inventors led to more attention and more development.

Government’s contribution to this incredible success story? In England, a bureaucrat became alarmed over the fast growth of this new device. The telegraph industry was threatened, and so was society’s order. And so he set out to control the telephone by imposing the same regulations that governed the telegraph – that government must sanction only one such telephone company, rather than this chaotic competition (government-sanctioned monopolies). And so the British government first attacked Edison and took him to court. Edison lost the court fight and decided to give up his interest in the telephone to Bell. That’s why there was a behemoth monopoly called the Bell Telephone Company,” but no Edison Telephone Company to compete with it. Government created the monopoly and in turn slowed its progress, forcing higher prices on consumers and ultimately a nation-wide distain for “Ma Bell.”

Barack Obama’s White House incorporates a vast communications system, but no one using it appears to have the slightest knowledge of from where it came. “Was it not always so,” asks the mindless bureaucrat?

Edison went on to invent the phonograph, opening the way for today’s vast entertainment industry. In addition he invented the motion picture camera, creating today’s massive movie industry. All created by one man and his ideas, providing services and jobs for millions. Government’s contribution is to regulate and tax every corner of these industries, causing higher prices and stifled creativity.

Henry Ford didn’t invent the automobile. But he did create the process to mass produce them, making them cheaper and easier for the average person to own. Prior to Ford’s creation, only the very wealthy could even imagine owning a horseless carriage. The automobile gave people greater independence in travel, and gave industry the ability to move more goods at a cheaper rate, and the economy soared. Horses took a much deserved rest. It is true that “after” Ford developed his system of mass production and created a huge demand, government did spend tax dollars to improve highways and bridges, making it easier to drive the cars.

Though his White House owns a massive fleet of some of the most incredible cars in the world, allowing him to travel independently and safely, Obama now seeks to impose policies that would eliminate cars and their provision of independence, forcing the rest of us to, instead use public transportation, run by government.

Two individuals, Orville and Wilber Wright invested every dime they had in the gamble that heavier- than-air objects could fly. No one had ever done it before. But they believed! There was heavy competition from other efforts to be the first to discover the answer. Some of that competition was financed by government. But the Wright Brothers prevailed as their modest home invention took to the skies in sustained flight – and the world changed forever.

Today, Barack Obama gets to fly around the world in the greatest flying machine every designed, Air Force One. But his policies to block the drilling and use of oil are forcing up the price of fuel, making it more and more difficult for the average American to afford a ticket on commercial airlines.

Barack Obama has the process backward. It first takes the power of one to see the ideas and create the tools that will benefit millions of others, who are then able to satisfy their needs and achieve their own dreams. But, in today’s society, after an individual envisions it, and takes the risk to invest his own effort and resources, he then has to jump through endless government hoops to finally achieve it. Then government rushes in to tax it and regulate it, all for the “common good.” Then to add insult to injury, that same courageous pioneer has to listen to the likes of Barack Obama telling the masses that the individual didn’t do it – the masses did.

That’s what government does. It invents nothing. It produces nothing. It creates nothing. It just grabs control of the ideas of free minds and taxes, regulates and, ultimately, stifles and crushes the urge to even try. And then all of us lose.

Tom DeWeese
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Tom DeWeese is President of the American Policy Center and National Grassroots Coordinator for CFACT (Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow) working to help local activists organize into Freedom Pods ( He is also the author of three books, including Now Tell Me I Was Wrong, ERASE, and Sustainable: the WAR on Free Enterprise, Private Property, and Individuals.