Read a couple of pieces on Steve Jobs this morning. I am not a techie, have never owned an Apple and was aware of Mr. Jobs, but only on the periphery. First was this transcript (also video) of a commencement address he gave, one of the subjects being “live like you were dying.” The second is a piece written by Kevin Williamson in the National Review.
Despite my lack of knowledge of Steve jobs, it did strike me as odd, hearing about his death yesterday. I knew he was ill with cancer, but he still seemed like one of those larger than life figures that would never die. My reading this morning gave me a little insight into why. Mr. Jobs was a transformational figure, like Thomas Edison in his day. Neither set out to be so, to be famous, but they had an desire to create something. To take an idea and turn it into reality. They were fascinated by the process of accomplishing, of creating.
Why is it that almost every meaningful invention has been created in the United States? From the automobile and the airplane to the telephone, radio, tv, computer and yes, cell phone and email and twitter? Why here and not somewhere else? What is that we have that other places don’t? Are we smarter, more industrious than other folks in faraway places? To me the answer is simply economic freedom. We have an environment where ideas and work pay off. Profit isn’t just about money. It’s about a tangible reward for your work. It is a physical confirmation that you have succeeded in providing a product or service that people value.
I spoke with a man once who imported “green” coffee beans to sell to roasters throughout the country. He was a very liberal hipster guy, the kind who talks about things like the “tonality” of coffee flavor. Yet he told me that he didn’t practice fair trade, and gave me the reason why. He said that when the farmers were guaranteed a set price for their coffee, they cut corners and therefore produced inferior beans. And he was after the highest quality beans. It seems that without an incentive to do so, the growers stopped striving for the best.
Down at “occupy Wall Street” and throughout the liberal world, you hear lefties spew out the phrase “profit motive” like it’s a dirty word. I’d like to ask these people, what gets you out of bed in the morning if not a profit motive? Do you not go to work every day to profit from your labor?
Each of us ought to have an innate desire to provide for ourselves and our families. We work and produce to provide safety and comfort. Not only is that a noble, moral calling, but the reverse is also true, to not provide for oneself or ones children is a moral failure. And to expect that someone else should provide for us, without work, is not only immoral, but a degradation. Self reliance is dignity. Working to provide value, even in the humblest position, is a high form of humanity.
You can add Steve Jobs face next to Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, George Washington Carver, and Alexander Graham Bell. He was a great innovator, and for that, a great American.