I hope I’m only one of many to see the irony. On the day that Steve Jobs, one of the most innovative entrepreneurs in our history, died, packs of ignorant and possibly malicious protestors roamed Wall Street demanding the death of the system that made Jobs possible.
Steve Jobs was a capitalist hero. He had a vision of computers for everybody in 1976, at a time when it was assumed that only the most prosperous businesses and the most advanced and well-funded research labs would ever need or be able to afford them. He built his first computer in his garage with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, and they marketed it from his bedroom. Good thing that local government regulators—the kind who shut down children’s lemonade stands today—didn’t arrest him for operating a business without a license and against zoning regulations!
Jobs, with his Apple colleagues, pioneered the home computer market, came out with the first commercially available system with a graphic interface, and introduced the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. Jobs himself built up Pixar, which brought a new and exciting look to movies. The result was a transformed communications and information world. Today, Apple Inc. has annual revenues of $65 billion, nearly 50,000 employees, and a market capitalization of $300 billion, second in publicly-traded companies only to Exxon. Wall Street loves Apple!
But anti-capitalist protestors today do not love Wall Street. Let’s be clear here. It is quite reasonable to oppose the federal government’s handing out billions in taxpayer dollars to bail out failed investment banks. But that’s not what the protestors in New York and elsewhere are complaining about. They seem to be mostly the usual spoiled young people who want to “smash the system.” Many mouth Marxist slogans. Few have a clue what they’re talking about.
Investment bankers direct funds—called capital—to promising enterprises. While many start-up companies rely on the personal savings of their founders or funds borrowed from their friends and family, the expansions of enterprises are fueled by financiers. Commercial ventures are usually risky and many investments are lost. But that’s how the system works. Because no one—certainly not government functionaries or politicians—knows ahead of time which companies will succeed or fail. For example, most investors in the ’70s thought the idea of a personal computer on every desktop was crazy.
I suspect that many of the Wall Street protestors don’t know this because they were educated in American schools by leftist professors who detest the capitalist system that allows them their cushy jobs and salaries. And I suspect that the protestors are using iPhones and iPads as they protest without appreciating that it was the capitalist system that allowed Jobs to develop and offer such products.
This brings us to another difference between Jobs and the anti-capitalist protestors. Jobs in his work needed to be ruthlessly rational and reality-oriented. He couldn’t just dream of personal computers or devices that no one could imagine. He and his colleagues had to figure out how to create those products and at such a low cost that millions of consumers could purchase them.
The anti-capitalist protestors are the ultimate irrationalists, living in a mental fantasy land. They simply vent emotions and frustrations, which are often the result of their ignorance and refusal to understand the capitalist system they damn. Needless to say, most have nothing to offer resembling a practical alternative.
The ugly and unthinking spirit of these protestors is manifest in the comments of unfunny comedienne Roseanne Barr. She said, “I am in favor of the return of the guillotine.” She would confiscate much of the wealth of “guilty bankers” and for those who couldn’t live on what she would allow them to keep, “they should … go to the reeducation camps and if that doesn't help, then [they should be] beheaded.” The soul of a killer versus the soul of a creator!
What we see today in the protests against capitalism is a continuation of America’s low-level civil war between producers—people like Steve Jobs—and expropriators—those like many of the anti-capitalist protestors who want to use government force to confiscate from the productive.
The wonderful thing about a capitalist system is that it allows individuals the freedom to seek their own happiness, to do what they love, and to follow their own dreams. That’s what Steve Jobs did. He loved his work. And he told us:
“Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”
Well said, from a man who saw life as a celebration and whose life we should celebrate!
Edward Hudgins is research director at the Heartland Institute and former director of advocacy and senior scholar at The Atlas Society.