On Steve Jobs and Capitalism


Amid market volatility, ongoing PIIGS debt woes and political rancor the last few months, it’s easy to forget the fundamental force for good that is capitalism. However, the passing of one of the world’s most “insanely great” capitalists on Wednesday seems an appropriate time to pause and remember.

No Ivy elite was Jobs. He lasted six months in college and couldn’t see the point of wasting his parents’ money further. And when Steve moved his dad’s car out of the garage so he and buddy “Woz” could become their own bosses, he couldn’t possibly know the vast implication of his choice. He simply set out to create unique products that people wanted to buy. And in doing so, he helped usher in a PC revolution that changed almost everything about the way we operate today. His work helped democratize computers out of the laboratory and workplace and move them into homes and schools—and palms. And in that way, Jobs didn’t just create wealth for himself, his company or its many employees—his innovations created societal wealth and good.

That’s the power of unencumbered capitalism in the United States or anywhere else—anyone with an idea and some gumption can create, enrich and better the world around them. For example:

  • The PC revolution, for which Jobs is partially responsible, enabled immense productivity gains globally. On an elementary level, a world without the PC is a world without instant word processing and the spreadsheet. Try getting through a single work day without those now.
  • Likewise, it’s important to remember Jobs’s innovations created and enabled whole industries around them: computer stores, component manufacturers and app developers. But he also changed the entertainment industry with Pixar and iTunes. Additional wealth and jobs were created in industries inside and outside of Tech as a result.
  • His competitors, too, were bettered by Jobs’s existence. The competition Jobs kicked off in the PC (and phone and personal electronics and music and movie) industries has only served to make the competition better. As a result, we all get products that are cheaper, more powerful, more efficient, smaller (or bigger)—your choice—just overall better.

Pretty awesome for a college dropout who just wanted to make “cool” products in his dad’s garage. We ask the critics of capitalism: Would the world be a better place without the entrepreneurs, innovators, visionaries and, yes, capitalists like Steve Jobs? In our view, no chance.

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*The content contained in this article represents only the opinions and viewpoints of the Fisher Investments editorial staff.