In my latest reading of Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, Barack Obama is still in Kenya. On pages 352-353, Obama talks about a conversation he had with a man named Francis about taxes in Kenya. The roads were dilapidated, and Kenyans didn’t like to pay taxes because they were reluctant to give their money to somebody else—-due to trust issues. Francis says that this is even true of well-off people whose trucks use the roads: “They would rather have their equipment break down than give up some of their profits.”
This reminded me of the controversy that Barack Obama’s comments on small businesses set off: Did entrepreneurs really build their small businesses, or should they be grateful to the government for giving them the roads and the schools that made their success possible? I had a discussion with a libertarian friend recently, and he said that commerce actually came before roads and allowed for there to be capital and funds for the roads to be built. In his reasoning, businesses came before roads, and not vice versa. My friend did acknowledge, however, that there is an upward spiral—-businesses result in roads, yet roads result in more production and an increase in entrepreneurship.
I wonder, though, about the well-off in Kenya who clung to their profits even when doing so resulted in dilapidated roads. Perhaps the roads could give them more profits, and yet they were somehow making profits without good roads. How? I mean, if their equipment breaks down, it costs money to fix that!