I read with interest this snippet about Jesse Jackson Jr. on what Steve Jobs would have thought of the Wall Street protests:
Jackson began an interview on MSNBC’s “Jansing & Co.” yesterday by offering condolences to the Jobs family, saying he “knew Steve over a period of time, not as a technical computer genius, but also he had an acute sense of social justice and a peace warrior. So he was a well-rounded guy, not just a computer genius we talk about today.”
When host Chris Jansing asked if Jobs would have supported the Wall Street protesters, Jackson said “no doubt about it” and then used his airtime to promote the movement.
This is from a man who wouldn’t know an iPod from a brown Zune, let alone know a thing about the mind of Steve Jobs.
As a longtime fan of Apple products and an accused member of “The Cult of Apple”, I can speak volumes about Jobs and his history within the computer industry. And one thing that always impressed me about the man is that he largely managed to keep his politics out of his business. Oh sure, you can infer that he leaned left due to who he associated with, but he never came out and gave speeches endorsing this candidate or that movement. Aside from his Stanford commencement address and his singular public statement encouraging organ donation after his liver transplant, to my knowledge the man never publicly spoke of anything but Apple and technology.
When it comes right down to it, Steve Jobs was an unrepentant capitalist. He offshored production of Apple’s products to (primarily) China. He kept Apple’s profit margins high — around 26% — when everyone else in the computer industry is scraping by at 6-8% margins. In a particularly exemplary incident shortly before Apple went public, co-founder Steve Wozniak wanted the two of them to give some of their own shares of the company to long-time Apple employees who had none, with Woz telling Jobs that he would match however many shares Jobs gave; Jobs said, “Great, I’ll give them zero.” (Good-hearted Woz wound up giving away shares anyway, calling it “the Woz plan”, which allowed many employees to buy a house and send their kids to college.) Upon returning to the company’s helm in 1997, Jobs cut Apple’s corporate match of charitable donations. Apple shareholders have never seen dividends, regardless how much Apple has made in profits. (And with a market cap close to — and sometimes exceeding — oil giant Exxon Mobil, they’ve made a lot.) Their iTunes Music Store borders on a monopoly of the digital music download business, and their line of iPods command the lion’s share of MP3 players. Their App Store for the iPhone and Mac take a whopping 30% of the sale of every product. In a private meeting shortly before his death, he told Obama that unions and manufacturing regulations in the US were the reason he offshored product production, and that teachers’ unions needed to be done away with and replaced with a system where teachers are hired, fired, and promoted based on merit rather than collective bargaining. He even had a private jet and was having a custom yacht built. The only thing missing from the “greedy, cigar-smoking capitalist” stereotype was the cigar.
Well, the cigar and the fat paycheck. Steve Jobs, upon returning to Apple when the stock was worth about $12 a share, took a salary of $1. Oh sure, he got stock options that made him filthy rich, but let’s face it: those options would only be worth anything if the company did well. And there is the thing that liberals and the Occupy Wall Street crowd doesn’t understand: to a capitalist, the money is less important than the success. Money isn’t the end, it’s a means to the end. Success, defined as realization of a dream, is the end. Money is a by-product of success, and is used by the consummate capitalist to fund more successes. How many successful capitalists can be defined as “serial entrepreneurs”, taking their money from one business and using it to fund another? How many successful capitalists started their business because they were working for some one else and said, “I can see a better way,” then they set out and built the better way, creating jobs in the process? How many successful capitalists started with a small handful of borrowed cash and a dream, taking operations from their home, dorm room, or parents’ garage and turned that dream into a global brand? I’ll help the Occupy Wall Street crowd and answer the rhetorical: Most if not all.
In building Apple into the company we know today, how many people prospered because of Jobs’ drive for the realization of his dreams? And we’re not just talking about the thousands of new jobs at Apple itself, people who have email addresses ending in “@apple.com” because of Jobs’ successes. From accessory manufacturers to heretofore unknown musicians, from online retailers to laborers in China, Jobs’ addiction to success made many other people around the world wildly successful beyond their dreams.
Yes, capitalists are addicts… Addicts to success. And for everyone to prosper, for everyone to have “a chicken in every pot and a car in every driveway”, we need capitalists like Steve Jobs to continue to be successful rather than excoriate them for following their dream.
Many times it has been said that Americans are standing on the shoulders of giants. And when this is said, it is meant that Jefferson, Washington, Adams, Madison, and the other Founding Fathers were giants that lifted us up to be a great nation. And this is true. But there are other giants whom we are standing upon.
Every generation of Americans has seen its giants, each one standing on the shoulders of those who came before, and who stood tall to make us a greater nation than we were a generation ago. From Lincoln to Martin Luther King, from those who charged up Mt. Suribachi to plant the Stars and Stripes atop Iwo Jima to those who charged up the stairwells of the burning World Trade Center towers, each generation has had their giants. Each generation has stood atop the shoulders of the giants before them, to raise this great nation ever higher.
And on September 11, 2001, there were scores of giants. First to mind are the first responders who risked — and in some cases gave — their lives to save others. Also, the heroes on United 93 who decided to fight back. But on that day and on the days that followed, other giants emerged. There were the people from around the nation who dropped everything and drove to New York City to help at Ground Zero. There were those who went straight to their closest military recruiter’s office and volunteered to go and serve, to go get those responsible for the devastation of that day, and to make sure it never happened again. And there were those who simply chose to take that day as a wake-up call and decided to change their life for the better.
But what have we done since then? Are we standing on the shoulders of the giants of 9/11, or are we standing in their shadows? Are we raising this country up to new heights or splitting it into pieces which are falling to the ground? Are we being the giants of our generation so that our children and theirs can stand upon our shoulders?
We are a country that built the Empire State Building in just 410 days in the middle of the Great Depression. We are a country that built each World Trade Center tower in just two and a half years. We are a country where we took only 8 years to go from JFK’s speech to landing on the moon. We are a country where four years after being attacked at Pearl Harbor, we destroyed our enemies on two global fronts, then came home to take our nation to new heights. Yet it’s been ten years since America-hating terrorists took down our World Trade Center towers and there is still a gaping hole at Ground Zero.
As we sit in the shadows of giants and squabble, they stand as giants to their people and laugh at us. Osama bin Laden is dead, al Quaeda is weakened, and the Taliban is scattered, but they are still winning. Every day that goes by that we are divided, they are winning.
So today, as we lower our flags to half-mast, as we lay wreaths and go to church and say prayers for those who we have loved and lost on that tragic day and in the global war on terror that followed, let us also vow to stop standing in the shadows of giants. Let us endeavor to take the long climb back up, and to stand upon the shoulders of the giants of 9/11 so that we may once again lift this nation to new heights, and be the giants for the next generation to stand upon.
We recently noticed this news item where a couple of little girls in Georgia were forced by the chief of police to shut down their lemonade stand because they didn’t have the necessary permits. Three permits totaling $150 for one day of operation, to be exact.
This sort of nanny-state Gestapoism is not just ridiculous. It is an affront to liberty which should outrage us all.
But it does serve to provide us with not just fodder to write about, but it also a reason to revisit an older post from one of our contributors, revise it, and update it:
- If life gives you lemons, a socialist would say: “You have lemons? Well, a strong Government hand is needed to distribute the lemons more equitably. The Government needs to ensure that other people have lemons, too. Now, you may have to give up some of your lemons so that other people can have some, but it’s not fair that you have all these lemons and other people might not have any.”
- If life gives you lemons, a communist would say: “Those lemons are the property of the State. If you did not get your lemons from the state — and since you have a whole bagful and are not a member of the ruling elite I know you did not — then you must surrender your lemons to the State, then stand in line so that you may receive a sliver of dried out rotten lemon six months from now.”
- If life gives you lemons, a communitarian would say: “It’s great that you have lemons. And you should be able to do anything you want to with those lemons. But we’re going to tell you how you can use them and how you can’t use them. We’re also going to regulate the usage of them to make sure that they’re all used for the common good. And if you make too much money on them, we’ll tax you. For the common good.”
- If life gives you lemons, every politician will say: “Tell you what I’m going to do for you. I’m going to take half of your lemons and in return I’m going to give you half a packet of sugar so that you can make a sip of lemonade with it.”
- If life gives you lemons, a Democrat would say: “That’s too bad that you have lemons but no sugar or water or cups. I’m going to end tax breaks for big oil and corporate jet owners and then I’ll pass a law that gives you money for sugar and water and cups. I won’t check in to make sure you use it for those things. I trust you. Vote for me!”
- If life gives you lemons, a Republican would say: “That’s great that you have lemons! Do you have any sugar and water and cups? No? Well I’ll pass a law to give you a tax break so that you can use the extra money to buy sugar and water and cups. I won’t check in to make sure you use it for those things. I trust you. Vote for me!”
- If life gives you lemons, a Libertarian would say: “That’s great that you have lemons. I don’t care what you do with them so long as you don’t squeeze lemon juice in my eye. No sugar, no water, no cups? Not my problem.”
- If life gives you lemons, a welfare recipient would say, “Why did you get lemons and I didn’t?! That’s not fair! I’m gonna vote for someone who is gonna make sure that I get my fair share of lemons for free!”
- If life gives you lemons, a capitalist would say, “You have lemons? You should start a lemonade business! You don’t have sugar or water or cups? For a 25% stake in your company, I’ll invest.”
And finally: If life gives you lemons and you choose to set up a lemonade stand in Midway, Georgia, the chief of police will say: “Where are your permits, little girl?”