Daisey is right when he insists that Steve Jobs was the one man in the world uniquely positioned to change this. Apple’s profit margins are immense. The stock could have continued to soar even if the pay and conditions of these workers’ lives were built into the cost of an iPhone or an iPad. People would have kept buying the products, and other companies would have been forced to follow suit. But Jobs didn’t care. He even instructed Obama that the United States 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.
A second issue raised by Jobs’s life and death is all that money he accumulated. When New York Times “DealBook” editor Andrew Ross Sorkin wrote a column before Jobs died, wondering why he seemed so stingy with his fortune—noting also that he did away with all the company’s charity programs (which were restored after his departure in August)—Sorkin addressed the topic so gingerly, I half thought he feared Jobs would send a thunderbolt from the sky to disable his typing fingers (or possibly curl his arm into a claw). “None of this is meant to judge Mr. Jobs. I have long been a huge admirer of Mr. Jobs and consider him the da Vinci of our time,” blah, blah, blah. Even so, right-wing bloggers and pundits evinced outrage that Sorkin even raised the issue. But come now: $8.3 billion? And add to this that Apple is apparently sitting on an estimated $76 billion in cash and other investments allegedly residing in a company called Braeburn Capital in Reno, Nevada—a corporation, according to BusinessWeek, that Apple created for “the purpose of managing its cash and short-term investments in a tax-advantageous manner” in a state that has no corporate or capital-gains taxes. (Why, after all, should Apple’s millionaires and billionaires contribute to the local and statewide public services in Cupertino, California, that make those fortunes possible?)
How ironic that the media love to celebrate this alleged icon of ’60s idealism at the expense of poor, square Bill Gates, who is devoting the better part of his fortune to improving the lives of millions of the world’s poorest people. (“Bill is basically unimaginative and has never invented anything, which is why I think he’s more comfortable now in philanthropy than technology,” Jobs told Isaacson. In the past, he had suggested that Gates “would be a broader guy if he had dropped acid once or gone off to an ashram when he was younger.”)
True, I am deeply devoted to the 27,000 songs I can take anywhere on my iPod Classic as well as the exquisitely engineered MacBook Air on which I typed this column. But as a parent and a citizen, I’ll take a Bill Gates (or Warren Buffett) over Steve Jobs every time. If we must have billionaires, better they should ignore Jobs’s example and instead embrace the morality and wisdom of the great industrialist/philanthropist Andrew Carnegie: “The man who dies…rich dies disgraced.”