It was a white leather-look jacket that drew me into the Christian based clothing store in town. “Hello, how are you?” the proprietor asked. “I’m fine,” I said, how are you doing? “Very well, he answered.” “Good,” I said. “That’s what you want when you’re in business.” “Obama says I didn’t do it myself,” he said. “He’s absolutely right,” I responded. “For example, your customers were able to get here because of the public roads and sidewalks, and the lights to see their way by.” That pretty much ended our conversation, but not my thoughts. Without public highways and roads, his business would have been extremely difficulty to maintain – if not impossible. And what of the harbors and ports maintained by the public by which he received shipments of his products. Or trade agreements with the countries who created the goods he bought … Oh, I think it’s a good bet he borrowed money somewhere along the way, or at least uses banks insured by FDIC. I’ll bet, too, that he relies on the postal service to some extent. And I assume he has a lavatory somewhere in the store, with efficient sewage disposal and safe running water in the sink for drinking. Given that his business is Christian-based, I’m pretty sure his beliefs and subsequent business choice depend upon experiences with others who set him an example and standard. Most likely his church had a guaranteed mortgage at one point. If not, it depended on the community getting together to support it.
It’s not all public funds that support his business. What of all the stores around him, helping to bring in business, and the newspapers that make it possible to advertise his wares. Then there’s all the support those other businesses receive from public funds. Just as his customers probably work for, have been employed by, companies who have relied on the public infrastructure for their success.
But let me get away from his situation and into mine. It is true that my parents saved for my college education – for which I feel tremendous gratitude. My college was supported – like basically all institutions of higher education, by endowments. And I probably would not have been admitted to my college had it not been for an excellent public education at all levels through secondary school. Then my graduate degrees. Yes. I worked very hard for them, but those institutions as well relied not only on endowments, but also on grants, many of which came from public funds. The very research that contributed to knowledge in my field depended largely on NSF grants. I can’t forget, as well, that my entire career as a professor was at institutions supported by public funds.
Yes, I can be proud of what I’ve accomplished, as can the proprietor of the store with the white leather-like jacket. But the pride has to be tempered by gratitude for all who have helped me – us- along the way.
“No man (woman) is an island.”
By the way, I didn’t try on the white jacket, much as I would have liked to. I just couldn’t afford it, even though it was worth the price. I hope others are grateful for whatever made it possible for them to try and buy. And I’m happy for the proprietor’s success. I want that store to be there for a long time to please me when I walk by, and occasionally buy.