Apple vs. GM: Ayn Rand knew the difference. Do you?
Apple acts like a producer. GM acts like a looter. It’s a key distinction that Ayn Rand laid out in ‘Atlas Shrugged.’
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When Apple was nearly ready to release the first iPhone, for instance, CEO Steve Jobs looked at the enclosure design and announced to his team, “I just don’t love this. I can’t convince myself to fall in love with this.” Mr. Jobs was asking his team to toss out a year’s work and start over. “And you know what everybody said?” Jobs later noted. “Sign us up.” That is the mentality of a producer – the commitment to settle for nothing but one’s best. It’s a mentality you can still find in many sectors of the economy.Skip to next paragraph
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But the Boyles are on the rise, growing fat on bailouts, handouts, and other sundry opportunities for political profiteering. For every producer like BB&T bank’s John Allison, who opposed Washington’s bailouts and was forced to accept government money, there seem to be 10 like former General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner, demanding tax dollars to prop up their failing companies.
Meanwhile, today’s real-life Boyles constantly lobby for government restraints on their more able competitors. Remember when the überproductive Bill Gates started giving away free Web browsers to his customers, and Netscape ran to Washington demanding that Microsoft be shackled via antitrust laws?
Yes, it can sometimes be hard to tell the producers from the looters. As government becomes more entangled in our economic affairs, even the Reardens of the world are forced to lobby Washington – not to reap unearned rewards, but to protect themselves from the Boyles. (It’s no accident that before Microsoft came under antitrust fire, it spent virtually nothing on lobbyists, while today it spends many millions.) What’s more, many businessmen are mixed cases – part producer, part political profiteer.
However difficult it may be to classify individual businessmen, though, it’s crucial to keep the two categories separate when praising or condemning the businessmen who appear in the headlines and before congressional panels. If we don’t, it’s the Boyles who benefit and the Reardens who suffer.
Yaron Brook is president of the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights. Don Watkins is an analyst with the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights.