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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/18316/steve-jobs-worlds-greatest-philanthropist/

“Steve Jobs, World’s Greatest Philanthropist”

September 5, 2011 by

Dan Pallotta must be channelling Jeffrey Tucker because his HBR editorial “Steve Jobs, World’s Greatest Philanthropist” makes a very similar point. He does miss the next logical leap made by Jeff – what is true of Steve Jobs is true for all entrepreneurs. Still, it’s a brilliant and much-needed antidote to those who measure the value of a human live solely in terms of how much we sacrifice our values for others.

What’s important is how we use our time on this earth, not how conspicuously we give our money away. What’s important is the energy and courage we are willing to expend reversing entropy, battling cynicism, suffering and challenging mediocre minds, staring down those who would trample our dreams, taking a stand for magic, and advancing the potential of the human race.

On these scores, the world has no greater philanthropist than Steve Jobs. If ever a man contributed to humanity, here he is. And he has done it while battling cancer.

While the authorized tell-all biography of Steve Jobs is yet to be published, I don’t think anyone would argue that Steve Jobs is motivated by either money or the desire to “help” humanity as such. The product is an end in itself. It is not designed with the goal of making the biggest profit or giving the consumer exactly what he wants. Rather, his goal is to create something that fulfills his own values – and then leave it to the consumer to recognize the value proposition of his creation. That may not be a popular business philosophy, but it’s hard to argue with its success.

{ 9 comments }

Gian September 5, 2011 at 5:32 am

Are all entrepreneurs good by definition?

Even those that invented selling porn on Web?

El Tonno September 5, 2011 at 6:00 am

You make it sound like there is something bad with selling porn on the web.

But I see the point. What of the entrepreneur who sells dioxine to someone who values it only to dump it on people and rice paddies in asian lands? The entrepreneur has performed a valuable market function but is he a link in a chain of evil?

David Veksler September 5, 2011 at 6:15 am

> What of the entrepreneur who sells dioxine to someone who values it only to dump it on people and rice paddies in asian lands?

If you are violating people’s rights, you are operating outside the market. Even if you are an accessory to the crime.

David Veksler September 5, 2011 at 6:12 am

What’s wrong with selling porn? But actually this is a complex philosophical question on which I think you will find a lot of disagreement within the Austrian school.

On one side are the ethical subjectivists who believe that as long as people are voluntarily engaged in trade, they must be acting in their own self-interest, and therefore virtuously. On the other side, are ethical objectivists who distinguish subjective market values from objective metaphysical values (as in, “Does this good actually benefit human life according to some universal standard of value?”) As an Objectivist, I belong to the latter school, so I don’t believe that all voluntary transactions are automatically virtuous. But I do think that entrepreneurial activity per se is virtuous.

That is, if someone chooses to sell cocaine (and is good at it), I think that it is a bad choice of profession because it is dangerous and the product is unhealthy, but the dealer is still virtuous in the aspect that his job requires a lot of market skills. Likewise, I think Snoop Dogg is a bad artist because I think rap music is terrible, but I admire him as a businessman and even his creative talent, even if I don’t like the way he chooses to use it.

Gian September 6, 2011 at 1:11 am

“I don’t believe that all voluntary transactions are automatically virtuous. But I do think that entrepreneurial activity per se is virtuous.”

Are you being consistent?

What is “entrepreneurial activity per se”?
Does’nt it necessarily involve voluntary transactions?
So a seller is virtuous per se but not a buyer?

David Veksler September 6, 2011 at 1:29 am

Per se” is a Latin phrase meaning “in itself.” We can look at things as a whole, or we can analyze and judge each aspect. For example, a painting by a Marxist may display great talent, but a corrupt theme. We can likewise say that market activity is virtuous per se, but can be wrong in a given context. For example, there is nothing wrong with buying a fancy sports car per se, but it is wrong to do so by sacrificing a higher value (such as, your kids education). Likewise, it may be wrong to buy marijuana if you allow it to negatively affect your life goals, but highly moral if it helps you deal with some debilitating disease.

Gian September 6, 2011 at 11:44 pm

Why it would not be better to say that the market activity per se is morally indifferent?

Tom E. Snyder September 5, 2011 at 6:13 am

Atlas Shrugged fulfilled!

John James September 8, 2011 at 12:23 am

I don’t think anyone would argue that Steve Jobs is motivated by either money or the desire to “help” humanity as such.

Funny you should say that…because that’s precisely what someone suggested he was motivated by…

[Jobs] wanted to have a success, he wanted to be an important person in the world and he wanted to it doing by having a company that was successful and made money.[...]

He must have read some books that really were his guide in life, you know. I think Atlas Shrugged might have been one of them that he mentioned back then, but they were his guides in life as to how you make a difference in the world, and it starts with a company and you build products and you gotta make your profit…and then that allows you to invest the profit and then make better products that make more profit. I would say how good a company is—it’s fair to measure it by its profitability.

Now, if one would like to argue Steve Wozniak doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about or is in no position to make a claim like that, I guess that would be a different argument.

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