Jobs’ success shows reward of capitalism

Freedom New Mexico

Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs, who died of cancer this week at the young age of 56, is being remembered across the globe as a great innovator, entrepreneur and visionary whose work has greatly improved the lives of people from all stations of life, in all countries and all professions.

We appreciate the tweet from President Barack Obama, who noted, “There may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented.”

Jobs’ death comes at a time when the ideas that he mastered have, for some odd reason, fallen on hard times. Jobs was an entrepreneur, someone who expressed the greatness of the capitalist system. He took risks. He created products. He raised private capital to develop and promote those products. Many of his ideas failed. Indeed, Nick Schultz of National Review called him “America’s greatest failure” because “Jobs did what only the greatest entrepreneurs can do: learn from their failures. I don’t mean learn from their mistakes. I mean learn from their abject, humiliating, bonehead, epic fails.”

We’re not suggesting Jobs held the same libertarian beliefs that we hold on the Freedom’s Editorial Board. Frankly, we don’t know what he believed on most political issues. But that’s the beauty of capitalism. One need not advocate or even understand it on a theoretical or ideological basis to benefit from it and to use it for helping others. Jobs helped untold millions of people. That’s not an exaggeration. He didn’t do that through charitable work, but by creating products of great utility and imagination that, in turn, created large profits.

There’s nothing wrong with profit. Profitable enterprises create jobs. More than that, they create opportunities for individual productivity and accomplishment. They provide outlets for the creativity inherent in human beings. The pursuit of profit isn’t about greed — or it needn’t be so. It’s about testing one’s ideas in the marketplace. Capitalism — and we don’t shy from that term even as retrograde Marxist protesters march on Wall Street — is opportunity. Successful capitalists are the ones who do the best job serving consumers, providing what it is they want. Jobs provided consumers with things they didn’t know they wanted, but have come to depend upon.

That’s brilliant and noteworthy. It’s laudatory and honorable. There’s no shame in this, despite the growing view in America and within the political class that the private sector is a scourge, and the government sector is the cure. We need some government, of course. But government is about force — through taxation, regulation, police powers. It needs to be limited or else it saps the entrepreneurial zeal of a nation. Freedom and markets unleash the potential of human beings. Some government is needed to constrain the base impulses within us, but government also constrains much greatness and opportunity and energy. It saps resources.

America’s current economic problems are caused largely by too much government intervention. Bureaucracies punish risk taking. They force companies and individuals to spend enormous resources on accountants and regulatory experts and attorneys. They punish individuals for taking chances, lest they collide with the ever-expanding body of laws.

Compare Apple with any government entity of your choosing. Look at the balance sheets of a successful company, which uses private capital freely invested, compared with government budgets, with their unfunded liabilities — i.e., massive debts — borne by taxpayers, who have no choice but to hand over their dollars.

Government protects those who master bureaucratic and regulatory systems. The true free market — compared with those businesses that exploit government benefits and take subsidies — rewards those who take risks. Many risk-takers lose their fortunes. Companies ebb and flow. Apple had previously fallen on hard times and is resurgent. There is nothing permanent in the private sector, where the fickle demands of the consumer are king.

We mourn the loss of Steve Jobs, a true entrepreneur. We also mourn the erosion of the nation’s belief in the brilliance of the marketplace. Maybe the celebration of Jobs’ great life will help rekindle that spirit, even among those in the political and government world who have never fully appreciated the brilliance of the market system.