You didn’t build that? Internet edition

Net Neutrality threatened this. You didn't build that, Obama! The Internet
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More than a week ago, Barack Obama flew his true color: red. He told private business leaders that they could never have built their businesses or careers on their own. When Obama said, “You didn’t build that,” he meant a government support system. By that he meant public schools, public roads and bridges, and the Internet. But a new column this morning reminds us that Obama was wrong even about that.

The You Didn’t Build That speech

Here is the part of Obama’s speech in Roanoke, VA, when he said, “You didn’t build that”:

If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

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. Somebody else made 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. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.

If Obama had said, “You didn’t build those” instead of “You didn’t build that,” everyone might have missed his point completely. Barack Obama wants to grow the government. To do that, he must remind people of things the government does, and say that only the government can do these things. He then can suggest that government ought to do everything.

But he said You didn’t build that instead of You didn’t build those. Oops. But as RoseAnn Salanitri said last week, that was more than a grammatical mistake. Obama let slip the kind of society he wants to build. In that society, if you supervise any factory, or manage any store, Obama can well and truly say that you didn’t build that. He did. He doesn’t want merely to be President. He wants to be First Secretary.

No wonder Rush Limbaugh, John Hayward (Human Events), and others found Obama’s remarks so outrageous. They knew exactly what he said, and what slipped out.

Who Invented the Internet?

You didn't build that, Obama! The Internet

Map of the Internet. Graphic: Mike Lee (Flickr), CC BY 2.0 Generic License

But Obama also lied about who invented the Internet. The Internet did not start with government research.

CNAV must now disclose its own mistake, a mistake anyone can make who sees only part of the whole.

As to the Internet: the Department of Defense needed to have its computers keep talking to one another even after a devastating attack from the air or from space. They developed a new networking method that civilians could use just as easily. The Internet is a by-product of one of the three proper functions of government, and grew out of the government’s basic mission. That mission is to manage force and to apply it to protect people’s rights.

CNAV regrets that error. L. Gordon Crovitz, in his excellent piece in this morning’s Wall Street Journal, gives credit where credit is due. Crovitz cites Vannemar Bush’s 1946 paper in The Atlantic. Bush proposed an electronic encyclopedia to which anyone can contribute. If that sounds familiar, it should. We call it MediaWiki, and also by the name of the original MediaWiki project, Wikipedia. (Ironically, Wikipedia itself missed that reference.) In fact, the first idea for a network of telephone and television came from Paul Otlet in 1934.

The common story of ARPAnet as the precursor to the Internet is also wrong. The Internet had not one precursor, but several. Not all were part of government, or even part of the Department of Defense. (See here and here.)

More to the point: the Internet needed more than Vinton Cerf’s Internetworking Protocol Suite (TCP/IP) and Timothy Berners-Lee’s Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). (Furthermore, Berners-Lee did not work for the American Defense Department at all, but for CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research.) Crovitz points out that the basic idea of connecting two computer networks, that usually “spoke” completely different machine “languages”, came from a private company: Xerox Corporation. Sadly, Xerox did not know what they had. Its executives thought only of sharing a copying machine (or a laser printer, which was always a copying machine without a scanner) among the desktop computers they developed. But a young man named Steve Jobs did know. He learned Xerox’ Ethernet secrets as part of a venture-capital deal. The rest is history.

More to the point: even the ARPAnet would never have grown until companies like Xerox, Apple, and IBM combined Ethernet with TCP/IP to make it possible. Crovitz also points out that since 1993, the Internet has been (and still is) a totally non-governmental project.

The Internet? You didn’t build that, Obama!

So where is now the case that Barack Obama made when he said, “You didn’t build that”? These words, from Is This Baloney, would be enough to destroy it:

Private businesses have built this country, not government. Nearly every tank, bullet, grenade, aircraft, ship and submarine [came from] the private sector with government money. Government, let me say, the people, provides money in the way of confiscated wealth, also known as taxes. But the idea[s] for these innovations [came from] the minds of [persons] who had vision. [They did not come from] government and elected officials [who think] of little more than getting reelected.

But the Internet did not move from government effort alone. The Internet had more private initiative behind it than even Projects Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo had. None of those projects would have succeeded without their private contractors. The Internet succeeded, as Crovitz points out, because private businesses did not wait for the government to tell them what to do. If not for the initiatives that some executives showed at Xerox, and again at Apple, the Internet would not be what it is today, if it would exist at all.

So Obama lied when he said, “You didn’t build that!” In fact, the real builders of the Internet, can say, not only to Obama but to legions of government functionaries,

You didn’t build that! We made that happen!

Related:

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ARVE Error: need id and provider

ARVE Error: need id and provider

Editor-in-chief at | + posts

Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

16 Responses to You didn’t build that? Internet edition

  1. […] You didn’t build that? Internet Edition – conservativenewsandviews.com/2012/07/23/ […]

  2. Obama was partially right about something during his recent notorious speech.

    Obama was (partially) correct when he insulted America’s free enterprise system and all the self employed business owners. Obama said: “If you’ve got a business you didn’t build that….” As I stated: Obama was partially correct. Did Obama enter the White House on his own so that he could make it his business to spit on our Constitutional Republic and bow to foreign leaders? No! It took 50 some million fools to empower him!……….

    We Made This Tee [Shirt] – Obama: Step Aside!

    http://moralmatters.org/2012/07/24/we-made-this-tee-shirt-obama-step-aside/

  3. TomBombadil says:

    Selective quoting much? Let’s look at the whole section in context shall we?

    “”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. Somebody else made 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. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own.”

    Now, that ‘you didn’t build that’ could have been worded better, but it’s clear to anybody not blinded by hate that the message is that individual businesses are built on individual initiative, but they rely on infrastructure build by many in order to succeed.

    It’s just another wonderful example of you ultra right-wing types only wanting to hear what you want to hear.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      I did look at that context. In every article that this organ has carried on the subject of “You didn’t build that,” we have parsed the grammar repeatedly, and examined even the context you vaunt. Why do you think I took such pains to point out that private industry, not the government, made the Internet what it is today, and indeed broke it beyond the closed network that ARPA actually had, and knit together all the various separate projects (Gopher, UseNET, etc.)? Why do you think I referred to my earlier treatment of roads and bridges? Of course I know why. You think I lie to my readers, and give entirely too much credit to anyone, anyone at all, outside government. Or rather, you tell yourself that, because that is the only way that your argument makes any sense.

      “You didn’t build that,” he said. not, “You didn’t build those.” And guess what? Government did not always “build those,” and in one case the putative President arrogated to the government a credit that was not due it.

      And the earlier achievements of others, achievements already bought and paid for, are never an excuse for differential taxation. Such taxes constitute bills of attainder. Legislatures and parliaments everywhere have tried people for being wealthy, or anything they do not like. Or they punish people today for doing something that, when they did it, was entirely lawful. That’s called ex post facto.

      The Constitution forbids both. And we’re going to put a stop to it, one way or the other.

  4. Paul Burnett says:

    The quote “Nearly every tank, bullet, grenade, aircraft, ship and submarine [came from] the private sector with government money.” from “Is This Baloney” is partially incorrect.

    Bullets, grenades, rifles and other ordnance items came from government – not private sector – arsenals, armories and ordnance facilities. (Look up “Springfield Armory” in Wikipedia, for example – it dates back to 1777.) The Army and Navy had numerous ordnance production facilities at Picatinny NJ, Indian Head MD, Frankford PA, Baraboo WI and many other locations.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      However, a private contractor made every bullet, grenade, rifle, etc. These things did not come from a government-owned and government-staffed munitions factory.

      • Fergus Mason says:

        “However, a private contractor made every bullet, grenade, rifle, etc. These things did not come from a government-owned and government-staffed munitions factory.”

        Only partly true. Government arsenals are indeed run by private contractors, but they’re owned by the government. Lake City Army Ammunition Plant, for example, is operated by ATK but owned by the DoD. And looking back to when you were worried that the government was buying 175 million rounds of 5.56mm to dry up the market, just that one plant produces more 5.56mm every month.

      • Paul Burnett says:

        Terry wrote “However, a private contractor made every bullet, grenade, rifle, etc. These things did not come from a government-owned and government-staffed munitions factory.”

        You’re wrong – the government-owned and government-staffed Pine Bluff Army Arsenal in Arkansas made grenades – I was there – I SAW them being made.

        Literally >tens of millions< of rifles were made at the government-owned and government-staffed Springfield Armory during its almost two centuries of existence, including over 4.5 million M1 rifles alone.

        I worked at the government-owned and government-staffed Naval Propellant Plant (later Naval Ordnance Station) in Indian Head MD which made cannon powder, torpedo warheads (Mk 46, Mk 48) and rocket motors (ASROC, Zuni, Sidewinder, Terrier, Talos, many others).

        Terry, please admit you're wrong on this claim of "a private contractor made every bullet, grenade, rifle, etc."

        • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

          Who built those factories? And are they still in existence? And why do we hear, today, of the Department of Homeland Security placing market-cornering orders for ammunition?

          • Paul Burnett says:

            The factories I mentioned were built by the government and staffed by government employees. The Naval Ordnance Station Indian Head was opened in 1890 and is still in existence; the Picatinny Arsenal was opened in 1880 and is still in existence; the Frankford Arsenal was opened in 1816 and closed in 1977; the Springfield Armory was started in 1777 and closed by Robert McNamara in 1968. These are historical facts!

            Are you seriously denying that the government-owned and government-staffed Springfield Armory built over 4.5 million M1 rifles? That’s a historical fact!

            I have no idea why DHS is buying ammunition from private companies’ factories, but I strongly suspect it’s because the corrupt politicians can more easily collect graft from the politically-connected private companies’ owners.

            That’s always been a problem for government-owned government-operated (GOGO) facilities – it’s a lot easier for corrupt politicians to collect graft from private companies than from GOGO facilities. That’s why McNamara closed Springfield in 1968 and transferred its production to privately-owned factories.

          • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

            Is it a matter of graft?

            Or is DHS preparing to make a totalitarian crackdown on this country?

            Why does DHS suddenly need all that ammunition?

            I see, as well, that you’re plumping for government to run everything having to do with servicing its own functions. The wisdom of that kind of in-sourcing is debatable, but as long as it has to do with the police and military functions, that kind of thing would be proper under the Constitution and under any reasonable theory of government.

            But if government runs any other kind of factory, now you’re into socialism.

  5. Paul Burnett says:

    Terry, you wrote “However, a private contractor made every bullet, grenade, rifle, etc. These things did not come from a government-owned and government-staffed munitions factory.”

    I wrote back “Are you seriously denying that the government-owned and government-staffed Springfield Armory built over 4.5 million M1 rifles? That’s a historical fact!”

    Terry, can you admit you were wrong?

  6. […] role of the State in the creation of the Internet. The debate was prompted by President Obama’s recent statement that “Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so […]

  7. […] You didn’t build that? Internet edition […]

  8. Paul Burnett says:

    Terry wrote “If you have the citation to show that (the government-owned and government-staffed Springfield Armory built over 4.5 million M1 rifles).”

    Here’s W.W.II M1 Garand Serial Numbers by Month and year, ending in 3.8 million: http://myplace.frontier.com/~aleccorapinski/id11.html

    http://www.scott-duff.com/WhoHowManyWhen.htm says the Springfield Armory produced 3,526,922 M1 rifles from 1932 through 1945 and 637,420 after WWII.

    Most other citations on the internet show similar numbers. So, my memory was wrong – Springfield Armory seems to have built slightly over 4 million rifles, not 4.5 million.

    So are you willing to admit that the Springfield Armory did indeed build rifles, contrary to your original claim that they didn’t?

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