Steve Jobs--A Dissenting View
"Steve Jobs, An American 'Disgrace'"
In The Nation, November 28, 2011, Eric Alterman presents a dissenting view of Steve Jobs who has received nearly universal praise since his death for his inventive genius and Ahab-like quest for perfection in Apple products. This is beyond dispute. Eric Alterman acknowledges Jobs's accomplishments but pulls no punches in pointing to some of Jobs' less attractive characteristics and actions.
Jobs in many ways was an Ayn Randian character, straight out of Atlas Shrugged, who treated the workers who produced Apple products like serfs, and who hoarded his $8.3 billion fortune "to no apparent purpose." Apple has done extremely well by its investors and the customers who buy its products. But Apple is an "engine of misery" for the subcontracted Chinese workers at Foxconn company that employs 430,000 workers in Dickensian conditions at its Shenzhen plant which manufactures products for Apple and other electronics companies.
The downside of Steve Jobs is currently the subject of a one-man show by monologist Mike Daisey entitled The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs at the Public Theater in New York. Daisy visited the Foxconn plant and covertly interviewed a number of workers at Foxconn who are housed in huge, prison-like dormitories, eat company food, sometimes work 34-hour shifts, are exposed to unsafe and unhealthful working conditions and brutal supervisors. Daisy insists that Steve Jobs was in the best position of anyone to improve these conditions because of Apple's huge profit margins. If Apple had pressed for improvements at Foxconn other companies would likely have followed suit. "But Jobs didn't care. He even instructed Obama that the U.S. had to behave more like China in the manner in which it encouraged corporations to act free of regulations or concern for their employees and their environment.
Andrew Ross Sorkin commented in the New York Times before Jobs' death "wondering why Jobs seemed so stingy with his fortune--noting that Jobs did away with all the company's charity programs (which were restored after his departure in August)." Aside from Jobs's personal fortune of $8.3 billion, Apple is sitting on $76 billion in cash and investments in Braeburn Capital in Reno, Nevada, which Apple "created for the purpose of managing its cash and short-term investments in a tax-advantageous manner. (Nevada has no corporate or capital gains tax.)
Alterman says he'll take Gates or Buffett over Steve Jobs every time and suggests that billionaires embrace the "morality and wisdom of Andrew Carnegie: The man who dies rich...dies disgraced."
Alterman's article about Steve Jobs reminds me of an article in Harpers by Lewis H. Lapham entitled "Elegy For a Rubber Stamp: Tim Russert" which he was prompted to write after the praise that was heaped on Russert upon his demise and NBC's week-long exploitation of his death. http://ralphdeeds.hubpages.com/hub/Elegy-for-a-Rubber-Stamp--Tim-Russert
[I am indebted to Eric Alterman's article Steve Jobs: An American 'Disgrace' in The Nation, November 28, 2010]
8-29-11NYTimes--"The Mystery of Steve Jobs Giving" Andrew Ross Sorkin
- The Mystery of Steve Jobs's Public Giving - NYTimes.com
The co-founder of Apple, who stepped down as chief executive last week, has focused on his work and family, not philanthropy.
10-22-11 "Steve Jobs" by Walter Isaacson Reviewed by Janet Maslin
- ‘Steve Jobs’ by Walter Isaacson - Review - NYTimes.com
Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs is a clear, elegant and concise book of record.
8-30-11Forbes--"Why Andrew Ross Sorkin Should Apologize to Steve Jobs" Eric Jackson
- Why Andrew Ross Sorkin Should Apologize to Steve Jobs - Forbes
We don’t know if Jobs has given anything anonymously through the course of his life. Therefore, Sorkin does a “j’accuse” over Jobs’ lack of public giving. (As any DA would tell you, ‘You’ve got to try the evidence you have, not the evidence you want
Jobs on Philanthropy in 1985 Playboy Interview Eric Jackson in Forbes 8-31-11
One reader pointed out that Jobs had really directly responded to these points in a 1985 Playboy Interview:
What does the money actually mean to you?
Jobs: I still don’t understand it. It’s a large responsibility to have more than you can spend in your lifetime–and I feel I have to spend it. If you die, you certainly don’t want to leave a large amount to your children. It will just ruin their lives. … Almost everyone would think that he could invest the money back into humanity in a much more astute way than the Government could. The challenges are to figure out how to live with it and to reinvest it back into the world, which means either giving it away or using it to express your concerns or values.
So what do you do?
Jobs: That’s a part of my life that I like to keep private. When I have some time, I’m going to start a public foundation. I do some things privately now.
You could spend all of your time disbursing your money.
Jobs: Oh, you have to. I’m convinced that to give away a dollar effectively is harder than to make a dollar.
Could that be an excuse to put off doing something?
Jobs: No. There are some simple reasons for that. One is that in order to learn how to do something well, you have to fail sometimes. In order to fail, there has to be a measurement system. And that’s the problem with most philanthropy–there’s no measurement system. You give somebody some money to do something and most of the time you can really never measure whether you failed or succeeded in your judgment of that person or his ideas or their implementation. So if you can’t succeed or fail, it’s really hard to get better. Also, most of the time, the people who come to you with ideas don’t provide the best ideas. You go seek the best ideas out, and that takes a lot of time.
If you plan to use your visibility to create a model for people, why is this one of the areas you choose not to discuss?
Jobs: Because I haven’t done anything much yet. In that area, actions should speak the loudest.
[Jackson was long AAPL at time of publication]
"Wired"--Report on Foxconn Suicide Epidemic and Abysmal Conditions
- New Report Details Onerous, Illegal Working Conditions At Foxconn | Epicenter | Wi
SACOM, went to four Foxconn facilities and interviewed more than a hundred employees in March and April 2011, to survey the current working conditions. The report found staff working overtime exceeding the legal limit, endless back-to-back shifts...
7-30-11Telegraph--"A Look Inside the Foxconn Suicide Factory"
- A look inside the Foxconn suicide factory - Telegraph
As the Apple iPad launches in the UK on Friday, an investigation shared with The Daily Telegraph reveals the working conditions at Foxconn, the company in China which makes products for the world's largest technology firm.
Hub Review of Steve Jobs Biography
- Steve Jobs Biography
Even in the void of philanthropic endeavors, Jobs will go down in history as a great man for what he gave to the world. Jobs wanted the Macintosh to be used by the masses so it is not surprising he wanted his biography to accomplish as much as well.
RollingStone--"Supreme Court of Assholedom--The People vs. Steve Jobs"
- Supreme Court of Assholedom: The People vs. Steve Jobs | Matt Taibbi | Rolling Stone
Edison electrocuted an elephant once. The cheery moment is captured in a classic production called Electrocuting an Elephant, a black-and-white film the inventor used as part of a marketing campaign against his commercial rival, Westinghouse and...