In the 1987 romantic comedy “Baby Boom,” a high-powered New York management consultant inherits a legacy from a distant British cousin — but it’s not money, it’s a baby girl. After some amusing attempts to fit a baby into her yuppie lifestyle, the woman, played by Diane Keaton, buys a ramshackle Vermont farmhouse, sight unseen, and retires to the country.
Vermont is a disaster. The only thing the run-down property has going for it are some apple trees. So Ms. Keaton’s character invents some cute packaging for the Country Baby brand applesauce she cooks up to feed her niece, starts selling it to tourists from a roadside stand and soon has wholesale orders pouring in.
Her old bosses offer to buy her out for millions. Instead, she opts to keep the house, the baby, the business and the hunky veterinarian next door.
It’s corny, but the movie succeeded by reinforcing a familiar Yankee stereotype: Give the American entrepreneur a pile of lemons and, through hard work and creativity, she’ll soon turn herself into a lemonade millionaire.
Is that still the American dream? Are a majority of Americans, whatever their race or ethnicity, still proud of the entrepreneurship of their parents and grandparents?
Do they still dream of being their own boss, of working hard and working smart to create a successful business of their own?
Without a record of economic recovery to run on, President Barack Obama is taking a startling gamble this summer. He clearly believes that not only do Americans lack such entrepreneurial dreams, but that business owners who risked it all for a better life aren’t responsible for their own prosperity.
“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help,” Mr. Obama told cheering supporters in Roanoke, Va., last week. “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.”
Added Obama, “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”
Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign now banks that a functional electoral majority will cheer the president’s promises to loot the successful, to “spread the wealth around,” to punish the job-creating capitalists whom he denigrates as merely lucky at best, greedy thieves at worst.
Mr. Obama keeps questioning whether Republican businessman Mitt Romney’s “plan will create jobs.” This attack helps explain why one centrally planned stimulus after another has collapsed in a cloud of dust over the past 3½ years.
In fact, no intervention is necessary, desirable or likely to work. The genius of the American free market is that the only plan necessary provides a level playing field, with courts to protect property rights and punish theft or fraud; reduces government meddling to a minimum; and allows the American entrepreneur to sink or soar.
In this year’s presidential election, the choice is surprisingly clear. Do we continue leading the world in freedom, opportunity and prosperity, or do we line up for our subsidy checks down at the post office, now that it’s twilight in America?
This editorial appeared July 20 in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.