Does Apple's Steve Jobs Prove Greed is Good?
The debate on billionaires and their debt to society rages on.
While some believe that Steve Jobs did the right thing in choosing to keep his money, others think that the Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) co-founder should have donated his wealth to some philanthropic cause. Last summer, I dissected this issue with an in-depth editorial analyzing the lack of Steve Jobs' charitable efforts.
"I think it's silly to force Apple or Jobs into philanthropy," I wrote. "If their hearts aren't in it, what's the point? If consumers knew that Company X was only giving away money to improve its image and to build up its marketing efforts, would they be happy? Probably not. They'd prefer to go on living with the belief that Company X actually cares."
Ultimately, it all comes down to what Jobs wanted to do with his money. If he didn't really want to give his money away -- publicly or otherwise -- who are we to say otherwise? This is supposed to be a free nation. And in a free nation, you are free to do whatever you want with your hard-earned profits.
Don't tell that to his critics, however. While you might think that this is no longer an issue, Apple enthusiasts have decided to revive the topic.
"I consider myself a conservative (financially) and I would go so far as to say, if you are a billionaire and you don't give some of your money to charity you are worthless as a human being," wrote RandyMarshCT, who expressed his opinion by commenting on my last story. "You might be a massive success as a business person, but as a human being you are worthless. I make under $50K/year but I give at least $500 to different charities every year. It's not very much, but I try to do my part. There are so many poor people in this world with terrible and painful problems that need that money so much more than I do."
RandyMarshCT said he isn't complaining that Jobs didn't give money to him personally. "I'm complaining that he sat pretty and died with BILLIONS of dollars when children die from starvation and preventable/curable diseases every single day. What was $20 to Steve Jobs? Basically nothing. What is $20 to a mother who's child is starving to death? Another 2 weeks (or more) of life. It sounds to me like you are trying to justify not giving any of your money to charity."
A commenter by the name of panskeptic said that there is "no moral superiority attached to selfishness" and that Jobs should have given away his money. "Rockefeller, Carnegie, Frick and the rest were active slimebags, yet the money they gave away to improve their images also improved the lives of countless millions of people.
"Nobody needs 8 billion dollars. If Jobs is not giving, shame on him. …. Yes, even under capitalism you are your brother's keeper."
Owen Jordan had another take on the matter, saying, "Perhaps he does donate -- without attaching his name to it. Wouldn't that truly be from the heart vs. achieving notoriety for it? It's well know[n] Gates has been trying to improve his image... "
Instead of giving to charity, Dave McKinnon thinks that Apple products should be more affordable. "Instead of accumulating immense wealth from sales profits, how about making your products more affordable to the consumer and hence expanding your sales to more consumers," he wrote.
Meanwhile, a commenter by the name of reactionshot defended Jobs' decision to hold onto his wealth. "You can't tell anyone what to do with their money," reactionshot wrote. "Secondly, true altruism is anonymous. The amount of grandstanding that Gates and Buffet and company have done about their 'contributions' shines a very bright light on the true intentions of their so called altruism and generosity. I get the feeling that they are trying to buy redemption, because let's be honest and clear, nobody gets as rich as they have gotten without destroying a few people in the process."
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