Saturday, October 8, 2011

Did Steve Jobs Hate the State?

There are many clues that he just may have. Check Spelling

It appears that Jobs was an original gold bug. He recommended in 1979 that Grinnell College, where he was a trustee, invest in gold. This doesn't make him a hater of the state, but it shows an early distrust of government created paper money. But, let's continue on.

According to a recent disclosure report, Apple spent $560,000 lobbying the federal government in the first quarter of 2011, roughly one-third the amount that Google and Microsoft each spent in the same period. And Apple spent a good portion of its lobbying efforts fighting off the state, versus using the state to hinder its competitors.

The company's first-quarter filing lists lobbying activity for "issues related to transportation of batteries." That is, in April, the House of Representatives passed a bill protecting Apple and other electronics manufacturers from limitations that would classify lithium batteries as hazardous materials.

Apple also is part of the "Win America Campaign" lobbying group that is calling for tax breaks for corporations who repatriate offshore earnings.

Apple also signed up to a campaign against US government's ability to inspect customer data on computers without warrant.

Overall a pretty damn solid anti-state lobbying stance.

And who can forget the video which recorded the icy silence from Jobs, when Cupertino city council members tried to shake Jobs down for free Wi-Fi and an Apple Store in Cupertino.

Most fascinating, Jobs never got a license plate for his car.

The auto marketing magazine, Polk, writes:

Mr. Jobs drove a silver 2007 Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG without a license plate.

Why? Nobody knows for sure, and multiple theories have been bandied about in Silicon Valley. Some think it's a high-tech vehicle code distortion field or custom-built mechanized plate retractor. Others insist that overzealous fans swipe the roadster's tags every time they're mounted. I even saw one blogger opine it was because the font on California license plates is so ugly. His theory is that Mr. jobs couldn't stand to mar the aesthetics of a beautiful vehicle with the product of some state assemblyman's sense of style. Maybe it's simply because he could get away with it.

And that brings us to the other aspect to this mystery. How exactly did Steve Jobs drive a plateless car for four years without ever getting ticketed for the infraction? A search of traffic records confirms that he successfully avoided plate-related fines. Again, theories abound, but I think it's just a matter of playing the odds.

Or, perhaps, it was simply that Jobs was not impressed with government demands to do this or that.

There's no smoking gun here, but the great entrepreneur appears to have had at least a healthy distrust of government and perhaps much more. A private man, perhaps he chose to keep his views about the government private, since broadcasting them might have made Apple a more noticed target by the government. But actions do speak louder than words, and a pro-gold Steve Jobs, who stands up to a city council, lobbies for tax cuts and doesn't bother to get a license plate for his car, suggests an awful lot about what he likely thought about government.


  1. I would agree with what you have stated for most of this. I love Apple products and hope that they continue producing them with the same attention to detail that Steve would have desired. But, Apple, under the leadership of Steve, was an expert at navigating the patent system. They are currently involved in some of the most anti-competitive state enforced lawsuits right now.

  2. Coming from a computer tech who used to loathe Apple until they turned around because of Jobs, I must say I've grown an even fonder respect for the man in this light. Truly one of the greatest to have graced our time.

  3. The aesthetics of even the nicest cars are sadly already marred by the accommodations made for license plate mounts. Just look at the photo in the article.

  4. Yeah but..........I'd like to know more about his stance on intellectual property laws and the entire anti-Libertarian government-supported IP racket.

  5. He put Al Gore on the Apple board.

  6. I've worked with Apple and NeXT products since 1985 -- especially NeXT. The impression I've always had of Jobs -- and it's only an impression since I've never done more than pass him in the hallway at a NeXT convention -- is that he's a 60's-style liberal. He would be rebellious over authority over his personal life, but embrace welfare-statism. That particular style of liberalism has no problem ignoring laws that they would foist on the rest of us.

    Recommending gold investments in 1979 wouldn't make him a gold bug. Gold was skyrocketing in the late '70s from massive inflation -- everyone wanted gold.

    Don't get me wrong. I think Jobs was an awesome human being in sort of the Randian sense. Most of my working life has been greatly affected by the man. However, I think there's some libertarian desire to make him one of us, and I doubt that it's true. Also, he had rough edges (that may have well been what made him great). The rumors of some of his blowups were epic, and he had a reputation for grinding through employees and burning them out. He also had very specific and perfectionist views that weren't always right (like NeXT OS display widgets should be in black, white, and shades of gray for its aesthetics -- fortunately, he abandon that one after a few years). Undoubtedly some of these quirks were what allowed him to be great -- contrary to statist doctrine, our weaknesses often lead to greatness. Jobs wasn't perfect, but he was driven to success, and his legacy is unquestionable.

  7. While Jobs might have been a 1960s-style liberal, I still respect the way he kept his politics to himself, unlike the odious Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, et al.

    And even if he was, given his perfectionist bent, I really doubted there was a single politician he respected even one bit. He kept quiet because he had no choice but to work with rent-seeking politicians and bureaucrats (who are his polar opposite), but were they Apple employees instead, he would have chewed them out and fired them on the spot. By the time he would have been done with them, they would have been rendered gelatinous from fear.

  8. Jobs is a Freedom-for-me-but-not-for-you kinda liberal guy...An Elitist.

  9. It's clear that despite the reported change from Steve Jobs being a technically brilliant egomaniac and abrasive leader in his early years to a technically brilliant, more humble and far more subtle leader in his later years a couple things always remained:

    -His appreciation of intuitive design that serves the customers.
    -His lifelong appreciation for production and wealth creation above of wealth squandering and charity.. this is apparent in the incredible asset base Apple has built up and his quote regarding charity from the Playboy interview:

    “In order to lean how to do something well you have to fail sometimes…the problem with most philanthropy-there’s no measurement can really never measure whether you failed or succeeded. So it’s really hard to get better.”

    I'm quite sure Steve Jobs did not hate the state on a principled basis as did Murray Rothbard, after all through IP action he did benefit in some cases from the state. Rather if you listen to what he said in his life, quotes like "think different", "stay foolish", to me Steve Jobs was like a real life Howard Roark, despite no prinicpled objection to the state Jobs probably saw himself as a "prime mover", given this it would only follow that he'd hold a certain disdain for the state and all other elements of society that destroy his vision. Though fortunately he never dynamited Apple he was never afraid to swiftly axe poor products, as he famously advised the Nike CEO, "get rid of the crappy stuff".

    Whatever the case he was someone who truly lived outside of the status quo and fortunately for the world did not let the "statist quo" (to quote Tucker) stand in his way either.

  10. Steve registered his cars, but he didn't put the plates on because he'd lost a few to souvenir hunters. In California, they're not actually required, although you do have to have your registration with you if you get pulled over.

    As for him hating the State, I don't think that's the case, since he was the one who invited Al Gore to join Apple's board of directors.

  11. Steve Jobs may have had anti-state tendencies, but if he hated the state he would have chipped in a measly $50,000,000 or so to Revolution PAC.

  12. I heard that Steve Jobs swapped his Mercedes for a new one every few weeks/months - whatever the amnesty period is in California before you have to get plates for a new car.