Steve Jobs and American Exceptionalism
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By Ed Feulner
Steve Jobs was more than the creative force behind a successful company. He was a living refutation of all that liberals constantly tell us about our country -- that we’re falling behind others and live in a “post-American world,” as one of Barack Obama’s favorite books puts it in its title.
Ask anyone who’s handled an Apple product or had his life improved by the technological innovations our system has produced in just the last decade. They’ll tell you that innovators such as Jobs epitomize that immeasurable quality the left often decries: American exceptionalism.
We’re not unique, the left claims. The drudgery and mediocrity we can expect in the near future is our just deserts for being too imperialistic, consumerist, wasteful and patriarchal. Yet this deadened vision stands in stark contrast with the wonders that Jobs wrought.
From computing to music to journalism, he changed the way the world did its business and leisure. Very little of what we do today has not been impacted somehow by Jobs and his company.
He certainly changed my life, from my first Apple III with floppy discs almost 30 years ago, costing about $6,000 and possessing a small fraction of the capabilities of my streamlined new iPad 2, all at less than 10 percent of the cost of that early dinosaur.
Macs transformed the way people came to see computers, from gizmos only nerds understood or liked to things almost as organic as the partly bitten apples of the ever-present logos. Creative designing and thinking flowed naturally from a Mac, powering the creativity and productivity that have become the hallmark of the American economy, our present problems notwithstanding.
Jobs changed the music industry by taking it digital. As for journalism and reading in general, we have now gone back to where we started: the biblical tablet. The elegant slab we take with us wherever we go can do the same for us and take us, no matter where we are, anywhere our imagination wants to visit.
All this was the result of the happy coincidence of genius in an individual and a system. Jobs was an individual with special DNA, no question. But this half-Arab boy who was given up for adoption at birth and went on to drop out of college was able to transform the lives of people worldwide because he lived and worked in this country.
The genius of the American system is comprised of the rule of law, respect for private property, and the freedom of the individual to strive to be better than himself and his neighbor and to reap the rewards that come from his abilities and effort. All of these and many other liberties are safeguarded in our Constitution. It’s part of what makes us a nation unique in the history of the world.
This is not to say we don’t have problems. We are indeed falling behind -- not behind other countries, but behind our promise and potential. Our government spends too much, tries to tell us how to run our private lives, and ties us down in red tape.
Our government leaders, the media, and academia refuse to admit that we’re exceptional. We’re told we have to manage our decline as a power -- that the great debate over ideas we’re having is evidence that “our politics is broken.”
This is nonsense. Steve Jobs may have given to liberal causes and politicians, but his life proved the existence of the American Dream. As anyone who’s Googled something on an iPad and then tweeted about it will tell you, trail-blazers such as Steve Jobs symbolize American exceptionalism every day.
Ed Feulner is president of The Heritage Foundation http://www.heritage.org.