Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Death of Jobs

Sometimes life is an allegory. If Plato and all his fellow idealists are right, life is always exactly that, but sometimes no matter how skeptical you are, life seems transparently scripted in certain ironic moments almost to shout at us the meanings behind the events we experience. Such is the case with the death of Steve Jobs, which made the nation sadder yesterday. I will say little about his passing itself, since so many others more qualified to speak about the man and his achievements have already eulogized him so eloquently and so well. But even I, technologically challenged as I am, have enough experience with the Macintosh computer, the iPod, and now the iPad to lament the passing of one who has revolutionized technology and the way virtually all humans experience it--as well as to lament all the innovations that he would have made had he been granted another few decades among us.

No, what I wish to discuss even more is one of meanings of his passing at just this moment. Surely Jobs' death is ironic since it comes at a time when we are beginning to see the results of our President's socialist vision of spreading the wealth and, instead of encouraging a society that produces, satisfies itself with spending the capital that other generations have created. In the 1970s, when Apple was getting off the ground, Jobs was producing during the day what he had dreamed at night in part because he worked in a field in which government was absent. He did not have to worry about regulations, about government making decisions which he himself could make much better on his own. He was free to create, free to fail, and therefore free also to do everything in his power to ensure that he succeeded. And succeed he did by creating products that people wanted, that met their needs, and that vastly multiplied human freedom by serving as tools that allowed users to unleash their creativity.

Now, however, we inhabit a different world. Candidate Obama promised fundamentally to transform American society, and unfortunately that means changing even what is good about America, like the freedom that Jobs enjoyed to transform America in a far less authoritarian way. No, the President's transformation entails using the power of government to deprive people of choice as ever-increasing regulation tells us what to do and what not to do--in short, as regulation makes those decisions for us that constitute our freedom as human beings and allow us to capitalize on that freedom to create the goods such as those that Steve Jobs did at Apple. While some worry about technology impairing humanity, it might be fairer to say that the greater perennial threat to human nature is expansion of government beyond Constitutional limits. If the great stream of Western philosophy is correct in teaching that the essence of humanity is freedom, then a government that renders us less free by coercing ever more of our behavior and making ever more of our decisions for us poses a very real threat to the freedom that defines us as human beings.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that as government grows, jobs die. It is more than simply a pun to point out that the current lesson of the growth of government killing jobs comes at a time when Steve Jobs died, that great symbol of innovation and economic freedom that has made life so much better for so many people. And he did so with no force other than persuasive power. If you wanted his products, you bought them; if you didn't, you didn't. But that's the way Jobs was--freedom for himself and freedom for you. President Obama, however, has a different vision. For the promise of more government largesse, he asserts that government is the solution of all problems. In his view, government must grow, and therefore it must intrude ever further into your life and mine, taking ever more of our fundamental humanity as it makes ever more of the decisions that define the essence of our humanity.

Steve Jobs will live on in the innovations produced by his vision, his freedom, and his choices. And when the United States eventually replaces President Obama's statist vision with one that again treats us all like adults capable of making our own ways in the world, the jobs--as represented by Steve Jobs--will once again return and allow us all to live the lives we choose.

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