“47%” and “You Didn’t Build That”: Two Sides of the Same Coin

It’s funny how each candidate’s biggest gaffe revolves around the topic of government dependency.

When Barack Obama said “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen,” he displayed both a scorn for individual achievement and a reverence for the role of government.

When Mitt Romney clumsily conflated two overlapping-but-separate populations that each weighs in at 47% — people who pay no income tax and people who will vote for Obama “no matter what” — he displayed a scorn for dependency on government and a reverence for self-reliance.

Romney is correct that there are people “who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That that’s an entitlement.”  That doesn’t describe every Obama voter, as Romney carelessly implied — but the people it does describe most certainly will support Obama.

The election offers a stark choice between competing visions of the proper role for government.  The outcome may hinge on whether voters focus on the gaffes or focus on the underlying conflict.