I refrained from writing about the death of Steve Jobs these last few days partly because by the time I got in front of a computer, the cataract of Jobs talk had already swept through the blogosphere. Then, too, I had never met Steve Jobs, and the moving testimony from so many articulate people who did know him gave me pause. I have nothing to add about Jobs the man. About Jobs the innovator, I can only add my voice to the chorus of admiring praise. Apple is an amazing company, stuffed to the gills with talent, and it was Steve Jobs who did the stuffing.
There is, however, one element about this last week’s Jobs festival that has not received sufficient attention. I mean Barack Obama’s official sympathy statement about Jobs’s passing.
I should say straightaway I suspect that Steve Jobs was an admirer of, or at least a voter for, Barack Obama. The famous Silicon Valley dinner with Obama and various tech CEOs last winter represented nearly a trillion dollars of American ingenuity and prominently included Steve Jobs, who was seated immediately to the left of the president. (Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook was immediately to his right.) A preponderance of Silicon Valley types, I’m told, list leftwards, or at least have done so until recently. That has always been a mystery to me. I can understand why Hollywood should go in for green, granola, save the spotted-whatever, peace-not-war, tax-the-rich sloganeering. They are, most of them, deeply frivolous people who exist on the frothy surface of other people’s labor. But people like Steve Jobs are ruthless capitalist innovators. Jobs, an adopted child whose father sold used cars, started with nothing but brains and drive and talent. Over the course of a few decades he did as much as anyone to usher in the modern technological miracle that changed the way we receive and purvey information, listen to music, watch movies, and all the rest.
But back to Barack. “Michelle and I are,” he (or someone in the White House) wrote, “saddened to learn of the passing of Steve Jobs.”
Steve was among the greatest of American innovators — brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it. By building one of the planet’s most successful companies from his garage, he exemplified the spirit of American ingenuity. By making computers personal and putting the internet in our pockets, he made the information revolution not only accessible, but intuitive and fun. . . . [H]e transformed our lives, redefined entire industries, and achieved one of the rarest feats in human history: he changed the way each of us sees the world.
The emphasis is mine. “Greatest of American innovators,” the “spirit of American ingenuity.” True, all true. But here’s the rub. If Barack Obama has his way — that is, if the policies he has advocated actually become law — another Steve Jobs would be squashed in his garage by government busybodies or (should he miraculously survive) regulated and taxed to death by federal bureaucrats. Steve Jobs was a walking embodiment of the American spirit of innovation. Barack Obama’s entire administration is dedicated to stamping out that spirit. He wants to centralize innovation, punish success, and regulate ingenuity. Obama’s fundamental error is his belief that economic success lies in redistributing rather than in creating wealth. His so-called “Jobs Bill” is in reality an anti-jobs bill. Despite his apparent personal fondness for Steve Jobs, the sad irony is that the bill is also at bottom an anti-Jobs bill.
Also read: “Steve Jobs — The Other Man in My Marriage“