Occupy Wall Street & the Death of Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

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.

United States Income Distribution 1967-2003

Occupy Wall Street & the Death of Steve Jobs

3 thoughts on “Occupy Wall Street & the Death of Steve Jobs

  1. Peter Wannemacher says:

    Hi Jordyn – great post! Like you, I am weirded out (but sadly unsurprised) by many people’s reactions to Jobs’ death. I’m just not 100% sure why people can’t be like “wow, that guy was really really good at his job, which was being the leader of giant – and giantly successful – company.” Yet people really want it to be more than that, which is strange. EVEN in terms of business people have had overblown things to say about Jobs. A person I respect on NPR claimed that “until Jobs came around, entrepreneur wasn’t a term…” that is just flatly not true. and more importantly, it doesn’t NEED to be true to properly reflect the fact that Steve Jobs was totally exceptional at what he did.

    I will make one point, which is that rumor has it that Jobs did give a fair amount to charity, but did not disclose it publicly. That isn’t the same as corporate philanthropy , but if it’s true it’s worth noting.

  2. @Peter: As you can imagine, much of my angst on this topic is directed at NPR specifically. This is definitely an area where their coverage has been decidedly (and inexplicably) biased.

    And I agree that we don’t even need to exaggerate Jobs’s achievements or beatify his life; dude did some amazing work!

    As for his off-the-record philanthropy, I’ve heard conflicting accounts about that. Supposing that he was generous and just shied away from publicity on the matter because he wanted to keep his motives for giving pure, that strategy denies what a role model and trendsetter he was. More than just giving money, he could have also been inspiring others to do so.

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