Hearing about these two current events in the same news broadcasts this week has given me a bit of cultural whiplash.
I own and use a few Apple products, most of which I need in order to do my job. They are elegant. They are easy to use. They are functional. Despite all of these things, they are still consumer electronics that I paid a huge premium for. They are not works of fine art, and they are certainly not works of transformative public policy.
So, while I agree wholeheartedly that Steve Jobs was a visionary who changed consumer electronics dramatically worldwide, the hagiographies that have been sprouting up everywhere are somewhat disturbing to me. The man was a CEO whose main responsibility was to generate profits for his company’s shareholders. This situation does not usually a saint make. Furthermore,
Arik Hesseldahl of BusinessWeek magazine opined that “Jobs isn’t widely known for his association with philanthropic causes”, compared to Bill Gates’ efforts. After resuming control of Apple in 1997, Jobs eliminated all corporate philanthropy programs. – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Jobs#Philanthropy
In short, Steve Jobs was absolutely, fundamentally part of the 1% of American society holding over 75% of American wealth (and likely 99% of its power and influence). While I don’t view Mr. Jobs and his ilk as The Enemy, I do view them as a huge roadblock to meaningful reform in this country right now.
So, yes, let’s praise the man for his achievements. But let’s also make an example out of him and encourage other wealthy entrepreneurs to spread their wealth around through philanthropy, through paying their share of federal and state taxes, and through agitating for policies that will help others less fortunate than them have the same opportunities for success that they had.