Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Bridges and Heroes

Have you ever noticed that almost all of the named highways, bridges and public buildings in America are named after politicians? I began thinking about that the other day while driving on a highway named after a politician who was especially good at bringing “pork” home from Washington to his native state. The thought occurred to me that it is interesting that we name things built with tax money after the people who spend the money. Would it not be more equitable to name things after people who paid the money? Who after all are the heroes, the ones who spend our money or the ones who make it and pay for the things we depend upon from government?

It seems to me that spending money is pretty easy, especially when one does not have to figure out how to make it in the first place. Now, making money is a different story. That takes courage, the willingness to take risks, intelligence, hard work and an innate sense of what people need or want. Those are the qualities which we should be encouraging others to admire and aspire to. Sure, some politicians have such traits, but are they the only ones with them? I think it is a shame that we do not use this vehicle of naming public facilities to celebrate publicly the real heroes in our midst.

Think about it. Men and women who start and operate successful businesses by definition are net contributors to society. Most people never think about the fact that every commercial transaction, freely entered into, is a win-win proposition. When someone buys a pair of shoes, tennis racquet, new car or any other item two things are true. One, the customer wanted the item more than they wanted the money in their wallet. Second, the seller wanted the money more than they wanted the item. So both parties end up with what they wanted most – the ultimate win-win deal. Those of us who live in a free society get all the things we need and desire through the medium of commercial exchange. The only way one can get money, un-coerced, is to produce some product or service that others will willingly part with their money to buy.

Therefore, by definition, successful business enterprises tend, in the vast majority of cases, to fill people’s needs, thus making the world a better place to live. That seems to me to be a pretty good case for considering as heroes those who take the chance to start new enterprises to better cater to our wants and needs. If it were not for them and the jobs they create, there would be no taxes with which to build our vast public infrastructure to which the politicians attach their own names. I say let’s name things for the people who make the money – not the ones who spend it.
Photo by Frank Starmer.

1 comment:

President said...

Don,
A good example is Lake Murray, near Columbia, SC. It is named for William Murray, the chief engineer of the project.