There is a conviction among some conservatives that the rich are better than the rest of us, and that they deserve to be reimbursed for the risks they take and the wealth they create. Then there is the case of Steve Jobs.
Probably the single most creative and charismatic capitalists of our era, Jobs will go down in history as one of the few true innovators of the late 20th-early 21st century, somebody who took risks, failed many times, but one whose successes are iconic. For that he is — and should be — rewarded lavishly.
Yet reading the obituaries of the high tech visionary, I couldn’t help feeling sadness for the troubled egomaniac. That Jobs was a difficult boss is well-known, what was new to me is that he refused to meet his biological father. While his father implies that the decision to give up the baby for adoption was not his, but perhaps Jobs knew something that we don’t, so lets try to be understanding.
Still, what are we to think of Jobs’ attachment to youthful fantasies? He claimed that the few times he took LSD were a life-changing experience. Now, I’ve seen my share of 20-year-olds eagerly repeating this kind of claim, but not many middle age family men are willing to go on record saying it.
Steve Jobs and his wife raised three children, but Jobs long denied paternity of his first child. This is a man who rejected his own absentee father. Here is another curiosity: Jobs hired a biographer to write a book for his children to get to know him.
So the Apple founder had trouble being a man. His persona fits neatly into our idea of a creative genius as somebody with an enormous ego, hunted by personal demons, and with a streak of childishness. What drives creative genius remains a mystery, but perhaps if the rewards offered by capitalism weren’t so high, in other words, if he wasn’t at all greedy, Steve Jobs would have chosen another line of work.
Maybe it’s not so smart to be Steve Jobs. If he were a little less successful, he’d be pathetic. He was an all or nothing kind of guy, and he got it all. He had money, and he basked in fame. But millions of us mortals with far more modest ambitions manage to live satisfying lives. I took my toddler for a walk this morning. The sun was shining, and it was just warm enough to enjoy the Indian summer. My son wanted to play on the lawn near the City Hall where the grass is green and bouncy. And he ran around there, laughing. I hope I never need to hire a biographer for my children to get to know me.
I’m glad that people like Jobs exist. I’m a bit of a Luddite, actually; I take pride in not having the latest and the coolest technology. I got my first cell in 2002. Our household owns two Apple products, iTunes and an iPod, which tells something about our priorities. But the thing about super industrious people like Jobs is that they create wealth, and that wealth will eventually trickle down to me.
Whether or not Steve Jobs is a better person than your average housewife is not my judgment to make. I’m pretty certain, though, that the people with a very special kind of greed — envy — are not my betters. Occupy Wall Street is an extreme example. So many kids hanging out there are touting expensive gadgets and talk of elite schools they attended. Yet they want their neighbors’ wealth. They have the egos of Steve Jobs, but not his intellect or his creativity. They fancy themselves working to benefit the world, but in reality they are just picking up chicks. I hope they’ll snap out of it sooner rather than later.