On Steve Jobs, Roseanne Barr, and the Wall Street Mob
I got a double-shock yesterday morning when I turned on my radio.
"Steve Jobs has passed away," I heard a DJ remark. "That's a shame."
Yes, it is a shame. I was saddened to hear that.
I was equally shocked as I turned the dial and heard something even more deadly. It was a comment from actress/comedienne Roseanne Barr, literally calling for the death of certain wealthy Americans.
"I do say that I am in favor of the return of the guillotine, and that is for the worst of the worst of the guilty," said the comedienne, who did not sound like she was joking. "I first would allow the guilty bankers to pay, you know, the ability to pay back anything over $100 million [of] personal wealth because I believe in a maximum wage of $100 million."
Joining her comrades in the "Occupy Wall Street" protest in Manhattan, the celebrity prattled on, pressing for a modern made-in-America version of Mao's and Pol Pot's reeducation camps: "And if they are unable to live on that amount of that amount then they should, you know, go to the reeducation camps, and if that doesn't help, then being beheaded."
Roseanne's Robespierre-like sentiments seemed especially cruel in light of the death of Steve Jobs. Consider: Jobs earned countless millions of dollars. Would he be exempt from what the bloody French revolutionaries once termed the National Razor? Jobs was no banker, but he was obscenely rich -- which, truth be told, is the ultimate sin in the minds of Roseanne and the zealots.
Sure, sure. I hear the criticism: Come on, Kengor -- Roseanne Barr is a crackpot.
Well, indeed, that's apparently the case. But Roseanne's rant against the rich seems a fitting apotheosis to the anarchical madness on display on Wall Street and elsewhere by the "Days of Rage" gang.
To be sure, I doubt that the marchers would be willing to escort American bankers to the chopping block. That said, they and Roseanne share some crucial, unifying commonalities. First and foremost, they are united by an utter, unhealthy contempt for wealthy people, and they would be happy to take as much money from the wealthy as humanly possible. Moreover, en masse, they demonize a faceless enemy. "The rich" is a handy caricature for whatever assortment of injustices these people believe ails them.
And that brings me back to Steve Jobs.
In fact, Steve Jobs was among "the rich." It is the likes of Jobs who have given these folks the pleasures and creature comforts they enjoy minute to minute. These alleged oppressed masses issue their talking points from the cell-phone world that capitalism and the likes of Jobs have given them.
There is something ludicrous about a throng of ranting, raving, raging college kids slurping Starbucks and staring into iPhones while angrily protesting the very system that made it all possible in the first place. Even the mob's ability to turn out the mob is made possible by this system. It's like an infant indignantly lifting its head from the breast of its mother and saying, "You don't exist."
Well, Steve Jobs existed. As co-founder and CEO of Apple, he changed the world for the better. The Wall Street "occupiers" are exploiting the technology that he helped create.
What the Wall Street horde and Roseanne do not understand is that in America, people generally get rich by providing a product or service that people want. Sure, there are exceptions. Some get wealthy by promulgating vice instead of virtue -- witness the porn industry's parasitical attachment to Jobs' technology industry. Some are rich because they inherited the money -- witness the Kennedy family. By and large, however, "the rich" earn their riches through the consent of millions of citizens who voluntarily purchase products and services through their own free will. That is called the free market; it is the opposite of the command economy.
The failure of young people to know the difference is yet another failure of this nation's horrendous educational system, and especially our bankrupt universities -- bankrupt, that is, morally, albeit certainly not financially. The universities that have mis-educated the mob charge far higher fees than any Bank of America ATM. You want to see greed and enslaving levels of debt? Look at what an Ivy League college charges.
Roseanne and the mob do not understand this country and its market system. Neither is perfect, nor are the wealthy people they produce. You are, however, free here -- and free to keep the wealth you earn.
Steve Jobs understood. May he rest in peace.
Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. His books include The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism and Dupes: How America's Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.