Walter Isaacson’s ‘Steve Jobs’ biography is a great lesson in economics

“While reading the first volume of the late William Manchester’s The Last Lion, his brilliant but unfinished biography of Winston Churchill, this reader’s initial reaction was that the stuff on the page couldn’t be real,” John Tamny writes for Forbes. “So amazing and unputdownable were Manchester’s stories about Churchill that they took on a fictional, Steven Spielberg-like quality.”

“Manchester’s book came to mind while reading Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson’s excellent biography of the late Apple Inc. co-founder and reviver,” Tamny writes. “To read about Jobs is to at times think one’s reading fiction so impressive was his life. For those who haven’t read The Last Lion or Steve Jobs, run, don’t walk.”

Tamny writes, “After that, the Jobs biography is an amazingly useful economics lesson… Isaacson’s story of this modern-day Thomas Edison explains better than any textbook the wonders of free trade, the folly of antitrust rules, job creation, executive compensation, failure, and profits. If teachers are struggling to reach kids on these subjects, here’s their book.”

“Notably, Jobs wasn’t an immediate success upon departure from Apple either. Indeed, as Isaacson described Jobs’ time at his next creation, NeXT, ‘The result was a series of spectacular products that were dazzling market flops.’ But as Isaacson put it about his errors, ‘This was the true learning experience,'” Tamny writes. “With the above in mind, too bad U.S. banks and carmakers aren’t allowed ‘dazzling market flops’ as Jobs was. At risk of seeming flippant, the unseen here is what banks and carmakers have never become thanks to politicians always cushioning their flops. Consumers can of course thank goodness that the frequently offensive Jobs didn’t have much in the way of Washington pull. He was better are as were his customers for his errors not being subsidized.”

“Considering job creation, during the GOP primaries, and then during his campaign for President, Mitt Romney was regularly demonized by Democrats and Republicans alike for how he allegedly made his money. To hear his mental midget detractors, Romney had earned his wealth through the laying off of defenseless employees, the looting of companies, etc.,” Tamny writes. “Something tells this writer that Jobs wouldn’t have agreed with Romney’s ankle biters.”

“Jobs’ vision of how a successful company can be that way proved important upon his return to Apple in 1997. Much as Romney’s Bain Capital made its fortune through the purchase of sick companies that were nursed back to health, Jobs arrived to an Apple that was ‘less than ninety days from being insolvent,’ and as Isaacson writes, ‘In his first year back, Jobs laid off more than three thousand people, which salvaged the company’s balance sheet,'” Tamny writes. “Like Romney, Jobs understood that the quickest path to success and job creation is often job destruction. Jobs got rid of the B-team players, but in doing so he created a world class business. Whatever one thinks of Romney the candidate, what his political opponents said about his business career brought new meaning to dirty politics.”

Much more in the full article here.

John Tamny is the editor of both Forbes Opinions and, plus a senior economic advisor to H.C. Wainwright Economics and Toreador Research & Trading.

MacDailyNews Take: Some see private enterprise as a predatory target to be shot, others as a cow to be milked, but few are those who see it as a sturdy horse pulling the wagon. – Winston Churchill

I think death is the most wonderful invention of life. It purges the system of these old models that are obsolete. – Steve Jobs

[Thanks to MacDailyNews readers too numerous to mention individually for the heads up.]


  1. I thought it was a great book. It showed the good, the bad and the ugly of Steve jobs and in the end I felt it did a great job in painting him as a normal human being who turned things upside down.

    1. A human being with a brain, heart, soul and vision and the genius to tie it all together. One of a kind did more for this world and planet than any of the talkers we hear too loud.

    1. Obamacare comes to more than two thousand pages of rules, mandates, taxes, fees, and fines that have no place in a free country. – Paul Ryan

      The U.S.A. will pay dearly for allowing this Obamacare tragedy to be rammed down their throats.

      1. The U.S.A. has paid dearly for allowing this nonsense conservative economics tragedy to have been rammed down its throat for the last 30 years. Thank god the reign of conservative idiot terror is finally coming to a close.

          1. “I think death is the most wonderful invention of life. It purges the system of these old models that are obsolete.”

            This country just voted for its own death. Let’s hope it can rise from the ashes like Steve Jobs did, who “didn’t build Apple.”

          2. Right, one size does not fit all, and Conservatives believe that if it’s not your size you’re simply out of luck and expendable. If they can’t make a profit from serving you, you won’t be served. You’ll be left to die. Makes the primitive native American practice of abandoning old folks on a drifting ice flow seem compassionate by comparison.

            1. Conservatives believe in private charity like they believe in the private sector. Just because they don’t believe in robbing Peter to pay Paul doesn’t mean they aren’t charitable. Charitable contributions from red states are much higher than blue states. The Dems know that if you rob Peter to pay Paul you will always have the support of Paul.

              Arthur Brooks gave a speech entitled “Why Giving Matters” in 2009. One of the things he said based on his research was: “You will hear in the coming days and weeks and months that if our country were doing what it should be doing for people in need, then we wouldn’t need private giving, that the government would be taking care of people who need it, and that we would not need you to step in to provide for others. I am here to tell you, having looked at the data, that the day the government takes over for you in your private charity is the day we get poorer, unhappier, and unhealthier. We must demand to take our place as givers and support the communities and people who need the services we can provide.”

            2. “Charitable contributions from red states are much higher than blue states.”

              I’m guessing if you eliminated contributions to one’s church, then charitable contributions would be more or less equal from state to state.

            3. The study, based on the most recent available Internal Revenue Service records of Americans who itemized their deductions, examines taxpayers who earned $50,000 or more in 2008. They donated a median of 4.7 percent of their discretionary income to charitable causes. Altogether, they provided $135-billion to charity, nearly two-thirds of the $214-billion donated by all individuals in 2008, according to “Giving USA,” the benchmark of giving patterns.

              The eight states where residents gave the highest share of income to charity went for John McCain in 2008. The seven-lowest ranking states supported Barack Obama.


              The release of Mitt Romney’s 2011 tax returns shows that he freely gave away more than $4 million to charity last year (about 30 percent of his income). In comparison, when Joe Biden was first running for vice president, his tax returns showed that he had given away just $3,690 to charity over the previous ten years (about 0.2 percent of his income). In other words, Romney gave away a thousand times as much to charity in one year as Biden gave in a decade.

              That’s despite the fact that the Bidens earned well over $2 million over that decade. In fact, their income was $320,000 in 2008, thereby putting them comfortably over the $250,000-a-year line that marks the entry point for “millionaires and billionaires” in Obama-speak.


        1. I have a personal concierge doctor. Therefore, my family is not affected by this statist idiocy in the least.

          However, some of the very morons who voted for Obama, and by extension Obamacare, will actually die or watch their family members die because of their actions.

          It’s sad, actually, but elections have consequences.

          1. What exactly is a “personal concierge doctor”? No wonder you don’t give a damn about anybody else. There are people in my family who can’t get insurance at all at any price because they have the misfortune to have survived cancer. Others have asthma and are excluded from any coverage under pre-existing conditions. If only they had had the good manners to die already things would be wonderful, right? In Jan 2014 these people will be able to get insurance thanks to Obamacare, and they won’t die for lack of treatment. Too bad. I know you’re disappointed. After all, you’re covered. Why should you be concerned?

            1. ^^ This. First 2014, then 2016 was just exposed for what he is — a selfish, narrow-minded person who only cares for his well- being and that of his family rather than the well-being of society as a whole.

            2. In today’s world, “caring” is highly overrated, Oprah.

              I’m a bit more pragmatic. No knee-jerking here. I think about the issues. I investigate them from all sides.

              With Obamacare, as written, “society’s” health care will get markedly worse. You watch and see. Obamacare isn’t a solution to the U.S. healthcare woes, it’s a massive, massive problem.

              By saying so, and trying to get others to understand the big problems coming to the U.S. because of this awful, unconstitutional — yes, unconstitutional — overreach, it means I actually do care.

            3. The Republican party had an opportunity to participate in the crafting of health care reform. When the GOP was unable to block it completely, they sought to undermine it. If you don’t like Obamacare, then you can place a good part of the blame on your own party. Since 2009, they have been far more concerned about limiting Obama to one term than actually seeking compromise for the benefit of the country.

              The country spoke in November, and it was against the arrogant, obstructionist, ‘my way or no way’ mentality that the GOP adopted in this century. The Republican platform contains some good ideas, but they are not acceptable when presented in ultimatum form.

              You have no chops left in this forum, F10T12. You spent the last few years shooting your load for the GOP and Romney and alienating a lot of people. Now you are just a bitter old husk of a partisan mouthpiece. All you do now is proclaim doom and gloom. Utterly worthless…

            4. “With Obamacare, as written, “society’s” health care will get markedly worse. ”

              I’m pretty sure it’ll give the tens of millions who’ll have access to the health care industry for the first time a lot better care than they’re getting now. Or don’t you count those people as “people”?

              It’s not like we have the best health care system in the world, folks. We don’t. We just have the most EXPENSIVE health care system in the world, and it only works for about 75 percent of us.

              In 2000, the last year they tried this, the World Health Report ranked the US 15th in delivering health care, but the most expensive, ranking us 37th overall.

              In 2010, the Commonwealth Fund ranked the top 7 industrialized countries on their health care, and the US came in dead last.

              Still want to argue the Affordable Care Act is going to be the death of us all? Is everyone dying in Massachusetts, where Obamacare has been working under it’s original name, Romneycare? Uh, no,

            5. Obamacare is merely another form of the American taxpayer financing pharmaceutical companies and corporate medicine. There will be nothing to make them accountable to market forces, they will simply charge exponentially what they charge now. It, along with the American dollar, will soon collapse in the heap of socialist failures that pockmark history.

          2. ObamaCare is an extension of the Medicare malign system of medical-care fraud. Medicare is so leaky that it was opened to all sort of abuses by insurance companies and insured, managed care institutions, patients, shysters and the lackadaisical attitude of the bureaucrats that administer the system. There is nothing wrong with Medicare on its own merit, but it is the politicians who want to please their constituents that have allowed Medicare to slide into corruption and disrepair. Obama is an ultimate politician: he understands that there is abuse in the Medicare system but in order not to displease some powerful forces, he closes one eye to the problem and does not bother to stop the leakage and the cheating. Now he is casting pearls before swines hoping that Obamacare would heal itself. He will be surprised to find out later that Obamacare would come back to bite him.

        2. Dont fool yourself. Obama told you what you wanted to hear. He favors big business just like the next jerk politician, Capitalism isn’t dead. You just think it is. Who do you think funds the political system?

          With regards to ObamaCare, the costs will be passed down to the worker. Always has been, always will. The tax is on you, boy. Big business will continue being profitable at the expense of the worker. Big business is just the tax collector for the government. Now grow up.

      2. It’s the *legislation* that’s some 2,000 pages in length. The implementing regulations are still being written, but already exceed 15,000 pages. And they’re not yet complete.

      3. The page count of a document HAS NOTHING to do with its content. Paul Ryan is a loser. I come from his district. His home town lost 8000 jobs since he’s been in office. Those high paying jobs are not com=ing back. That’s understood. What isn’t understood is that low paying jobs have not taken their place.

        Paul Ryan is a discredited bumbler whose economic theories are the discarded remnants of a forgotten and failed era.

  2. Except your death Steve J.! We would gladly swap your place among the living for the other Steve who is much more dirt nap worthy. Just as tech execs can uplift mankind they can also send them down a rat hole as Mr. Clown has.

    I still don’t like it Steve Jobs is no longer on my life’s timeline and I am older than he was. Certain figures like that you are sharing life and new discoveries with even if you never meet them.

  3. Why don’t you all work for the betterment of humanity. You know pay taxes so we all have better services.
    Australia is the 12 largest economy, with a population of 20million people and a tax rate of 30-40%
    We have free health care for all, free education for all
    And we are a true democracy, 100% of eligible voters vote
    Wake up America and stop being greedy selfish little children

    1. Uh Radiomoscow, I hate to pint this out to you, but your healthcare and education are not “free.” You may not pay for directly, but you pay for it with your taxes. Currently, people travel from all over the world to the United States for health care.

      Why do you characterize Americans as greedy if we choose to finance our healthcare differently?

      1. Greedy because people die with your system, it’s underfunded and overloaded. Many have no access

        If apple ran the USA would you have healthcare for all
        Google would make it an optional extra with ads
        Ask yourself what would Steve do?

        1. Does Apple give iPhones to everyone? No, they sell them at a very pretty penny. I don’t think even Tim Cook’s more charitable Apple would *give* healthcare to all. Apple can’t even build stores fast enough (or maybe they are not enough upscale locations for them); they are overloaded as well.

          Steve, not Apple, bought a home halfway across the country where the wait for liver transplants was shorter. Does that make him greedy because he used every resource at his disposal? It doesn’t make me upset that he “cheated” the system; I am not jealous of his prosperity. I think it is awesome that he had that opportunity, even if I couldn’t afford such an advantage.

  4. Trying to use Steve Jobs company, built with the sole intention of making devices consumers would want to buy, to buttress a defense of a venal robber baron like Romney and his merry band of cheque kiting coconspirators is offensive. Romney’s idea of “wealth creation” is part and parcel of the leveraged shell game that brought the worlds economy to the brink of collapse.

    1. Venal robber baron. Don’t talk about your hair plug-ridden total moron of a VP like that!

      The release of Mitt Romney’s 2011 tax returns shows that he freely gave away more than $4 million to charity last year (about 30 percent of his income). In comparison, when Joe Biden was first running for vice president, his tax returns showed that he had given away just $3,690 to charity over the previous ten years (about 0.2 percent of his income). In other words, Romney gave away a thousand times as much to charity in one year as Biden gave in a decade.

      That’s despite the fact that the Bidens earned well over $2 million over that decade. In fact, their income was $320,000 in 2008, thereby putting them comfortably over the $250,000-a-year line that marks the entry point for “millionaires and billionaires” in Obama-speak.

  5. Sometimes failure is the author of future success if one is willing to learn from it and deal in facts- not opinions or wishes.

    It was once wisely stated that if one has not failed one has not tried hard or often enough. Of course, today’s managerial class thinks they should be rewarded for FUBAR performances like those that caused the spectacular crash of Wall Street and the serving Banksters. Those b-stards went on TV and kept a straight face while arguing for their outlandish compensation claiming that people like them would leave America. I for one wish they would have.

    As to the lucky sperm club earlier in the comments, here’s one for you.

    Dubya was born on 3rd base and thought he hit a triple. Says it all about the bozos who screwed our economy up resulting in the 2007-8 market crash and recession.

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