You didn’t build that, Part II

A reader offered the following response to my What Does it Mean to be Young in Maine? post:

I strongly agree that it’s ever so important that you put things like this in your blog post: “(And it is not lost on me that the problems I am discussing are primarily ones of varying degrees of luxury, while many young folks in this state are faced with little-to-no opportunities to begin with due to a number of socioeconomic factors.)” Thank-you for recognizing this and the recognition that your spouse played a role in where you are. So many people who “make it” (in whatever sense) attribute it entirely to themselves and have no sense of why other people can’t just pull themselves up by their bootstraps as well.

I appreciated the catch. The line regarding my wife to which she refers is here:

It is also important to note, as I did in the show, that my business would not be doing as well as it currently is if it wasn’t for the fact that my wife had been our primary breadwinner while I was getting it off the ground. Now that this role is starting to create in our house economic parity between partners, my wife is getting to a point where she has hit a ceiling in her position.

I very much appreciated this acknowledgement.

I came from pretty poor people, but it was not lost on me that various successes of mine came from hard work, some ingenuity and original / interesting ideas, but also a whole lot of luck and support from other people. It is like that Sen. Warren quote, where she suggested:

“You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.”

And of course people worked so hard to politicize what she said that they overlooked the essential truth of her statement. Whether or not you believe in Warren’s interpretation of how government should work, none of us are alone in our successes. I did some work, yes, some of it good, some of it hard, and some of it smart, but other people played a part in my successes as well. We are all in this together.

And also, mine are currently problems of luxury. My wife and I do relatively well, and we do well thanks to a lot of things mentioned in that Warren quote, and thanks to some great people simply being great people. Not acknowledging this would be disingenuous, and I hear people do this all of the time. I feel like it is a real sign of ignorance and weakness when one points at their successes but don’t factor in support and luck for making it possible.

This isn’t to serve as a justification for the ways those supports are offered. We all have different ideas about what this support system looks like and how it should work, sure. This said, one does not have to be a liberal or a statist or whatever to be honest about how external parties were partially responsible for their own successes.

And none of this is to say anything of my various steps up due to particular buckets of privilege, but that is for a longer blog post.

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Alex Steed

About Alex Steed

Alex Steed has written about and engaged in politics since he was an insufferable teenager. He has run for the Statehouse and produced a successful web series. He now runs a content firm called Knack Factory with two guys who are a lot more talented than himself.