Jobs Celebrates Man Who Put a Dent in the Universe

January 4, 2014

Fittingly, Jobs opens with Steve Jobs receiving well-earned applause from Apple employees for the release of the iPod, a device that would, as Jobs predicted, revolutionize the music industry. Music is just one of several industries Jobs would revolutionize over the course of his career. Although it strays from essentials at times, the film, starring Ashton Kutcher, is a stirring tribute to Jobs. Jobs follows its namesake from his time at college to his triumphant return to Apple, focusing on three key achievements of Jobs’s career. Each of these victories highlights Jobs’s ability to recognize and encourage talent, negotiate fruitful deals, and inspire the people with whom he does business. The three achievements are: First, seeing the enormous potential for computers with video interfaces, in 1976 Jobs put together a business to sell the Apple computer board developed by his friend Steve Wozniak. Second, after attracting capital based on the success of the first Apple, Jobs brought Wozniak’s Apple II to market in 1977. The machine was a stunning success and brought fame and fortune to Apple. Third, after Apple floundered with the Lisa and early Macintosh computers and company executives pushed Jobs out of the company in 1985, Jobs returned to Apple in 1996 to bring the company to new heights. Some of the best moments of the film involve the characters speaking about their aspirations. For example, when Jobs first learns of Wozniak’s computer, he exclaims, “This is freedom to create, and to do, and to build, as artists, as individuals.” Upon Jobs’s return to Apple, industrial designer Jonathan Ive tells him: The computer, or the walkman, or whatever it may be, should be a natural extension of the individual. And it’s that mission, that devotion to quality and ideals and heart—that’s what keeps us here. That we might do it once more. The film ends with a touching rendition of “The Crazy Ones,” an ad originally read by Jobs. Jobs says that those sometimes considered crazy “change things; they push the human race forward.” He continues: While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do. Kutcher gives an outstanding performance as Jobs (complaints of some critics notwithstanding), nailing even the facial expressions and gait of the man. Other fine performances include those of Josh Gad as Wozniak and J. K. Simmons as an Apple executive. Overall, the film ably tells much of the story of Jobs’s remarkable career and does so in a way that shows due respect to Jobs. Unfortunately, the film occasionally strays from its main focus, overemphasizing some elements of Jobs’s life and ignoring some important elements. The film spends too much time on Jobs’s college “career” (he dropped out), his international travels, and especially his personal flaws (such as the fact that he sometimes treated his friends, lovers, and employees badly). The film could have reduced its attention to such personal details and focused more on Jobs’s productive achievements—without which there would be no reason to make or watch a film about the man. The film spends little time showing how the Apple II became such an astounding commercial success or how it improved people’s lives. The film also totally ignores Jobs’s work with the Pixar film studio, and it only briefly mentions his work with the NeXT computer, which was. . . Continue »

Andy Kessler Takes on Job-Destroying Mandates

July 28, 2012

In my interview with Andy Kessler (TOS Summer 2011), Kessler said, “There is always room for new creators to make the world more productive. Don’t buy the argument that technology will lead to massive unemployment and an underclass; just the opposite happens every cycle.” Recently, in The Wall Street Journal, Kessler elaborated on this point. He observed that in doing something in the marketplace better, more efficiently, or more productively, entrepreneurs may initially cause some people to be unemployed, but ultimately they create many more jobs or wealth than previously existed. Quoting from the article: Since 1986, Staples has opened 2,000 stores, eliminating the jobs of distributors and brokers who charged nasty markups for paper and office supplies. But it enabled hundreds of thousands of small (and not so small) businesses to stock themselves cheaply and conveniently and expand their operations. It’s the same story elsewhere. Apple employs just 47,000 people, and Google under 25,000. Like Staples, they have destroyed many old jobs, like making paper maps and pink “While You Were Out” notepads. But by lowering the cost of doing business they’ve enabled innumerable entrepreneurs to start new businesses and employ hundreds of thousands, even millions, of workers world-wide—all while capital gets redeployed more effectively. Kessler is right that in paying attention to the seen layoffs, and ignoring the unseen increase in productivity or wealth, economically illiterate policymakers have punished innovators for innovating, encouraged businesses to produce things that consumers don’t want to buy, and (via a host of regulations) locked in the status quo. Kessler is also right that the solution is for the government to, as he puts it, get out of the way. Every government-mandated low-flow toilet, phosphorous-free dishwasher detergent, CFL light bulb, and carbon-emission regulation is another obstacle on the way to a productive, job-creating economy that produces things consumers really want. It’s hard for people to argue with any of this; after all, if consumers did want something the government would not have to mandate it. But of course that won’t stop leftists (or unprincipled “rightists”) from arguing with it, and it won’t stop policy-makers from enacting ever more mandates in the future. What will? While educating people about economics may help, such madness will end only when Americans—and their elected officials—come to recognize each individual’s right to property and the pursuit of his own happiness as sacrosanct. The ultimate solution, then, is to educate Americans about the source and nature of rights. Like this post? Join our mailing list to receive our weekly digest. And for in-depth commentary from an Objectivist perspective, subscribe to our quarterly journal, The Objective Standard. Related: Interview with Andy Kessler about the Virtue of Eating People Ayn Rand’s Theory of Rights: The Moral Foundation of a Free Society

Steve Jobs, Willy Wonka, and Good Reason for a Torrent of Expletives

May 3, 2012

When reading about the life of Steve Jobs, my favorite moments are those when I get to see him enjoying his work. A fascinating new book by Ken Segall, who worked with Jobs for seventeen years at NeXT and Apple, shares one such moment that I hadn’t heard of before: At one of our regular agency meetings, about a year after the launch of iMac, Steve walked into the room giddy with enthusiasm for a new idea. . . . On this day he was pitching an idea to the rest of the room rather than the other way around. According to Apple’s calculations, the one millionth iMac was about to be sold. That was huge news. Remember, Apple had undergone some tough times, and iMac was the first new computer to be launched by Steve upon his return to the company. To have sold a million iMacs in a relatively short time was proof that something very right was happening, and it deserved some serious fanfare. Steve’s idea was to do a Willy Wonka routine with it. Just as Wonka does in the movie, Steve wanted to put a golden certificate representing the millionth iMac inside the box of one iMac, and publicize this fact. Whoever opened the lucky iMac box would be refunded the purchase price and then be flown to Cupertino, where he or she (and, presumably, the accompanying family) would be taken on a tour of the Apple campus. Steve had already instructed his internal creative group to design a prototype golden certificate, which he shared with us. But the killer was that Steve wanted to go all out on this. He wanted to meet the lucky winner in full Willy Wonka garb. Yes, complete with top hat and tails. It was one of those ideas that everyone in the room chuckled about, maybe more so because Steve seemed to be so enamored by it. He saw the potential to get massive PR for iMac and Apple, and he was more than willing to do his share by donning the costume. Unlike what happened in the movie, however, the winner would not become the new owner of Apple. He or she wouldn’t even get a junior assistant CEO position. It would all be for fun—along with the big, juicy headlines. That made me smile when I first read it. It still does. Why is this the first time you’ve heard about it? Surely it would have made the news, and the image of the one-millionth iMac buyer standing in awe next to Jobs in full Willy Wonka garb would have become a popular sign of the times. What happened to this wonderful idea? Unfortunately, Apple couldn’t proceed with it, because the legal issues were too restrictive. For one, California regulations required that this be classified as a sweepstakes, which meant that there had to be a “no purchase required” provision. It would be impossible to make that golden certificate work under these rules, so it would be more of a drawing. Which meant anyone off the street could win, and the odds were that whoever did win probably wouldn’t even have purchased an iMac. Faced with the restrictions imposed by lawyers, Steve decided it wasn’t worth it. Such is the state of the regulatory nightmare in America today. Even something as simple and benevolent as a certificate for purchasing the one millionth iMac can’t be implemented. . . Continue »

Week in Review for April 21, 2012

April 21, 2012

Noteworthy news and views from the week ending April 21, 2011 The Antritrust Assault on Apple Discussing the government’s antitrust action against Apple, an attorney for the company said, “We believe that this is not an appropriate case against us and we would like to validate that.” Calling the government’s action “inappropriate” is a gross understatement: It is a vicious assault on the rights of Apple, its stockholders, and Americans at large. Although Michael Shermer does not make his position on antitrust fully clear in his article for the Los Angeles Times, he does make a great point regarding the Apple case: “The Justice Department should have left things alone. Essentially, two titans—Apple and Amazon—clashed, and competition was working. . . . Rather than Justice’s meddling, we consumers have a much more effective tool against companies that charge a price we don’t like: Don’t buy the product.” For principled commentary about the government’s assault on Apple, see a recent Forbes article by Don Watkins and Yaron Brook, and see my recent posts at TOS Blog. Colombian Hookers, Las Vegas Clowns, and Your Tax Dollars While in Cartagena, Colombia on official business, members of the Secret Service engaged the services of prostitutes. While in Las Vegas, employees of the General Services Administration spent nearly a million tax dollars partying it up. (Jon Stewart had some fun mocking the GSA for spending money on clowns, a mind reader, and other silliness.) Unfortunately, America’s reality-television pop culture fixates on such scandals while ignoring the greater obscenities. Let’s not lose sight of the monstrous federal debt, efforts to fully nationalize health care, increasingly atrocious entitlement spending, and so on. Regarding the GSA, the real scandal is not that the agency blew nearly a million tax dollars partying in Vegas, but that the agency hires 12,635 full time employees and spends $26.3 billion annually. Because the agency buys supplies for the rest of the federal government, the size of the GSA is but a symptom of the out-of-control federal government. The Intensifying Assault on Free Speech The First Amendment is quite clear and means what it says, so why do leftists continue to call for censorship of political speech? Law professor Eugene Volokh summarizes the latest insanity in his post, “Congressman Proposes Amendment to Strip Most Newspapers, Churches, Nonprofits, and Other Corporations of All Constitutional Rights.” Nancy Pelosi endorsed the idea of amending the Constitution to demolish the First Amendment. The Institute for Justice’s Steve Simpson wrote an important article for The Objective Standard about the history of political speech and the partial restoration of the First Amendment resulting from the Citizens United decision. Food Stamp Program Stomps Harder on Rights The food stamp program is rapidly expanding: “The Congressional Budget Office said Thursday that 45 million people in 2011 received Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [food stamp] benefits, a 70% increase from 2007.” The figure is expected to grow into 2014. A Feckless Effort to Strip Stripper Welfare Last month in “Why the Outrage Over Welfare for Strip Clubs?” I pointed out that numerous recipients of “welfare” cash cards pulled funds out of ATMs at strip clubs, liquor stores, casinos, and amusement parks. Recently a Colorado state senator argued for tighter restrictions on using the cash cards at such locations. Of course, this will do nothing to prevent welfare recipients from accessing taxpayer money elsewhere and spending it at strip clubs or the like, and. . . Continue »

Freedom-Loving Americans Must Condemn DOJ’s Bullying of Book Sellers

April 5, 2012

The Justice Department continues its assault on the property and contract rights of Apple and various book publishers. Bloomberg reports that the DOJ “is close to a settlement with three of the world’s biggest publishers on e-book price contracts with Apple Inc.” According to the antitrust laws under which the DOJ acts, the federal government may forcibly prevent or alter consensual contracts among producers on the pretext that doing so increases “competitiveness.” But the only sort of competition the government should protect is that of free markets, made possible by the consistent defense of individual rights. Fundamental to our rights is the right to negotiate freely with others by mutual consent. Insofar as it enforces antitrust laws, the federal government replaces the free competition of businessmen creating and trading values (i.e., capitalism) with the “competition” of armed government thugs (and those seeking their favor) who tell businessmen what they may and may not do (i.e., statism). Ultimately, the DOJ enforces all of its “settlements” and other demands by forcibly seizing property and jailing people. Bloomberg reports that, in response to the possible DOJ “settlement,” “Apple may stop selling books or match lower prices, in some cases resulting in a loss on each book.” In other words, as reward for vastly enriching the lives of millions of Americans, Apple will be driven from part or all of the book market or forced to sacrifice its profits on the values it delivers. To defend justice and individual rights, Americans must demand that (a) Congress repeal the antitrust laws, which are inherently rights-violating, and (b) until the laws are repealed, the Department of “Justice” stop using them as a cudgel to assault American business owners. If you enjoyed this post, consider subscribing to The Objective Standard and making objective journalism a regular part of your life. Related: Justice Department Unjustly Attacks Apple The Monopoly Myth: The Case of Standard Oil Antitrust with a Vengeance: The Obama Administration’s Anti-Business Cudgel Antitrust Suit Against Microsoft is Immoral and Un-American Image: iStockPhoto

Justice Department Unjustly Attacks Apple

March 11, 2012

Few things could better illustrate the deep corruption of U.S. law than the Department of Justice’s grotesquely unjust assault on Apple, one of America’s most beloved and most successful companies. What is Apple’s alleged crime? It is contracting voluntarily with willing publishers to sell digital books to willing customers, thereby making life incalculably better for Apple’s employees and stockholders, the authors and publishers better-able to sell their books, and the readers eager to buy those books. The DOJ’s investigation, reports Atlantic Wire, centers on “the company’s apparent collusion with publishers on e-book pricing.” The notion that there is something wrong or “anti-competitive” with Apple agreeing with publishers on prices is ludicrous. Nothing can be sold in a free market except through a voluntary agreement on prices. Neither Apple nor the publishers violate anyone’s rights by agreeing to prices; instead, the companies thereby make their life-enhancing products available to those wishing to purchase them. Moreover, Apple has no ability to force any author, publisher, or reader to do business with the company; instead, the company relies exclusively on persuading others to voluntarily enter into a transaction. Anyone is free to compete with Apple by the same means—and many other companies do just that. The only force involved here, the only anti-competitive activity, is that of the U.S. government. Rather than protecting Apple’s right to freely negotiate with publishers and readers, the government is attacking Apple’s right to do so. It is long past time for the Department of Justice to live up to its name and for the U.S. Congress to repeal the unjust antitrust laws. If you enjoyed this post, consider subscribing to The Objective Standard and making objective journalism a regular part of your life. Related: Antitrust with a Vengeance: The Obama Administration’s Anti-Business Cudgel Vindicating Capitalism: The Real History of the Standard Oil Company The Rise of American Big Government: A Brief History of How We Got Here Happy Birthday, Steve Jobs—and Thank You Image: Creative Commons by Marco Paköeningrat