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October 25, 2011

Steve Jobs: Robber Baron #isaacson

For many, large portions of Walter Isaacson’s biography of  Steve Jobs will be retreads of now apocryphal tales.  In other portions, the direct narrative from Jobs and his closest cohorts proves an interesting glimpse into the man who was more a singular force of will than anything else. He cursed employee’s best efforts, and deceived his closest friends. He had few hobbies, no time for philanthropy, little time for personal relationships, and a moral code that could best be defined as opportunistic.

In this view of Jobs, we largely already knew he wasn’t the warm-fuzzy type to work with.  The personal side is nothing remarkable, and similar to that of other driven figures.  He was deeply affected by what we tend to characterize as ‘flaws.’

But we will forgive these things, because he helped create a company that churned out products that enlightened design, raised standards, and will ultimately define a generation. Society would be less forgiving of Jobs’s character had his drive created an oil products  or pharmaceutical empire.

The surly, dynastic traits exhibited Jobs are no different than the likes of Rockefeller, Morgan, and Carnegie. Jobs’s closed systems happened to create products consumers love. The others noted here will be viewed without any romance.  In some regards, they are held up as all that is wrong with capitalism.

The domineering and controlling tendencies amongst moguls spans industries.  Let’s cut the others the same slack (or condemn them equally).



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