Has the over-the-top coverage of the sadly premature death of Steve Jobs (1955-2011) struck anyone as perhaps a telling sign of anxiety over the prospect of American decline? Specifically, I’m writing about the decline in technological innovation, but I think it speaks to anxities about the future of the United States in all kinds of global leadership questions as well as the current state of the U.S. economy.
From my perspective, Jobs is an odd person to lionize. Don’t get me wrong–he helped develop and sell a number of remarkably nifty gadgets, but he wasn’t the inventor. He was the CEO of Apple–a company that moved most of its manufacturing to China. So all of the comparisons to Thomas Edison seem way overblown, and quite frankly, I don’t think his business model was as progressive as Henry Ford’s. Can the Chinese laborers who assemble our i-Pods, i-Pads, and i-Phones afford to buy them themselves, in the way that Ford made sure his employees were well-paid enough to afford cars of their own? There is all of that River Rouge business, I know, but Jobs didn’t need to call the Pinkertons in to bust up strikes. He shipped those manufacturing jobs overseas to an authoritarian country where they don’t have to fuss with unions, or strikes, or most of the other tiresome aspects that come with employing human beings.