I need only refer, as I’ve often done before, to Leonard Read’s short and wise essay “I, Pencil,” which explains how no one could possibly marshal the resources, skills, and know-how to make an ordinary lead pencil because those things are spread across countless people around the planet. The same could be said, even more emphatically, of someone like the late Steve Jobs, whose Apple, Inc. created one of the first home computers. Even Jobs could not have made a pencil, let alone something like an iPad, himself ..
This is not to discount in any way Steve Jobs’s achievement. Again, Obama is wrong when he says, “You didn’t build that.” It’s true that without the Apple designers, manufacturers, marketers, and millions of others, the iPad could not be built. But that’s true in the same sense that without air, water, and land, the iPad also couldn’t be built. Yet Steve Jobs was the indispensible element, the sine qua non, of the iPad.
So who created the underlying order that politicians and bureaucrats want to control? The answer is–nobody. A free society is one in which people respect private property, freely associate, and do not tolerate legal privilege or persecution. Under those conditions, the free market is what happens when you just leave people alone.
Private property gives people a sphere of autonomy that lets them use their knowledge and skills as they see fit. The philosophy of individualism–that the individual is more important than society or the state–is the key because it enables and encourages free association, free trade, and an astonishingly complex division of labor and knowledge to spontaneously emerge out of individual choices. Nobody planned that degree of social cooperation, nobody could have planned it–any more than Steve Jobs could himself make a pencil.