Is the world better off if Steve Jobs didn't give much money to charity?

The New York Times appears upset that Steve Jobs hasn't given much money to charity. The question is whether Jobs did more good by amassing wealth so that he could control the companies that he ran. Is it even a close call? From a piece today by Deborah L. Jacobs at Forbes:

In his New York Times column today, “The Mystery of Steve Jobs’s Public Giving,” Andrew Ross Sorkin shines a spotlight on the fact that the former Apple CEO and Forbes billionaire has never been public about his philanthropy. He briefly considers, though seems to dismiss, the possibility that Jobs has been an anonymous donor.

Sorkin does an admirable job of marshaling the evidence that Jobs has devoted much more energy to building wealth than to sharing it. But whether Jobs has been charitable or not, what he does with his money is his choice. And he has the right to remain silent about it.

Like other wealthy people, Jobs has no doubt been badgered by fund-raising requests. He refused to join the lineup of nearly 70 U.S. billionaires who have pledged to give away at least half their fortunes during life or at death. Facebook co-founders Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz are among those who have joined the philanthropic campaign led by Berkshire Hathaway‘s Warren Buffett and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. . . .

This author has it exactly right.

What a loss to humanity it would have been if Jobs had dedicated the last 25 years of his life to figuring out how to give his billions away, instead of doing what he does best.

We'd still be waiting for a cell phone on which we could actually read e-mail and surf the web. "We" includes students, doctors, nurses, aid workers, charity leaders, social workers, and so on. It helps the blind read text and identify currency. It helps physicians improve their performance and surgeons improve their practice. It even helps charities raise money.

We'd be a decade or more away from the iPad, which has ushered in an era of reading electronically that promises to save a Sherwood Forest worth of trees and all of the energy associated with trucking them around. That's just the beginning. Doctors are using the iPad to improve healthcare. It's being used to lessen the symptoms of autism, to improve kids' creativity, and to revolutionize medical training.

And you can't say someone else would have developed these things. No one until Jobs did, and the competitive devices that have come since have taken the entirety of their inspiration from his creation.

Without Steve Jobs we'd be years away from a user-friendly mechanism for getting digital music without stealing it, which means we'd still be producing hundreds of millions of CDs with plastic cases.

We would be without Pixar. There's a sentence with an import inversely correlated to its length.

We would be without the 34,000 full-time jobs Apple has created, just within Apple, not to mention all of the manufacturing jobs it has created for those who would otherwise live in poverty.

We would be without the wealth it has created for millions of Americans who have invested in the company.

We would be without video conferencing for the masses that actually works. Computers that don't keep crashing. Who can estimate the value of the wasted time that didn't get wasted?

We would be without a whole new way of thinking. About computers. Leadership. Business. Our very potential.

Last year Change.org wrote of Steve Jobs, "It's high time the minimalist CEO became a magnanimous philanthropist."

I've got news for you. He has been. . . .

UPDATE: Rush Limbaugh talks about Jobs and the news about him available here.



Blogger Martin G. Schalz said...

It sounds to I, as if Mr. Jobs is actually doing the old proverb of
"If you give a man a fish you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish you feed him for a lifetime."

Then again, folks whom are self sufficient cannot easily be controlled by handouts, no?

8/31/2011 10:26 AM  

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