Steve Jobs: Liberal iCon but Capitalist Extraordinaire

Ralph Waldo Emerson and his son Edward struggled with a defiant calf that would not return to the barn. Edward pulled on the calf’s ears while his father pushed from behind. The calf wouldn’t budge. Emerson had read the philosophy of Plato and the science of Newton, but none of these intellectual tools helped in getting a reluctant calf into the barn.

A young girl watched with amusement at the ineptitude of the father-and-son team. Without saying a word, she walked up to the calf and thrust a finger into its mouth. Lured by this maternal imitation, the calf followed her into the barn. Emerson watched with amazement at the ease of her accomplishment. Upon returning to the house, he opened his journal, and wrote these famous seven words: “I like people who can do things.”

Like Emerson, I admire people who can do things. Steve Jobs could do a lot of things. Yes, he didn’t invent all the Apple products on his own, but it took his vision, leadership, and high demands to get the products he envisioned to market. An idea is not good enough. Following through to the end is the sign of a person who can do things.

There’s a line from the Mark Zuckerberg character in the movie Social Network, the story of the creation of Facebook. When the Winklevoss twins sued Zuckerberg for stealing their idea, Zuckerberg said to them, “If you had invented Facebook, you would have invented Facebook.” I have ideas for inventions all the time, but I’ve never invented anything.

He left a legacy beyond his life and death with four years worth of new ideas. Money was not his motivation. Death was. Here’s a section from his now famous 2005 Stanford Commencement Address:

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

Jobs didn’t even make excuses when he was facing death. He could have, and no one would have blamed him.

On a number of conservative talk shows, I’ve heard people say that Steve Jobs should not be admired because he was a political and social liberal. Nonsense. Jobs should be imitated. If you’re a conservative, invent something. Don’t whine about Microsoft or Apple and how liberal these companies are. Beat them at their own game. Jobs beat IBM and Microsoft from his garage. He believed in the biblical admonition, “Don’t despise the day of small things” (Zech. 4:10). The market cap for Apple is $350 billion. IBM has a market cap of $220 billion.

The technological revolution benefits everybody, not just liberals. Jobs and Apple might be liberal iCons, but they make things that we like and use, and no one has forced us to buy their products.

Through Jobs’ innovative vision, hard work, and refusal to blame others for his early failures, Jobs created millions of new businesses, jobs, and industries with no increase in our taxes.

Jobs may have been a liberal, but he worked like a conservative. There is no time for whining or blame shifting. Follow Jobs as a once-in-a-lifetime entrepreneur and capitalist, but reject his liberal social and political agenda. You can’t beat something with nothing.

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