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From A Sarcastic Quip To A Full Article, Steve Jobs And Occupy Wall Street Edition…

November 3rd, 2011 · 3 Comments
Econ 101 · Markets

A few weeks ago, I put the following on my Facebook page out of some combination of annoyance and amusement:

Apple’s market cap: 353 billion, and people are leaving flowers and notes for Steve Jobs at Apple stores.

Bank of America’s market cap: 62 billion, and people are marching on its offices in protest.

Capitalism- it can be done right, but most of you are doing it wrong. xoxo, econgirl

In retrospect, I didn’t really intend to single out Bank of America, I just needed to have a company to compare Apple to. My point was that, in a lot of cases, “doing well” and “doing good” (terms often used in the corporate social responsibility sphere) don’t have to be at odds with one another, since there’s nothing inherently evil about making a profit by creating products that people want to buy. (For example, I’m guessing I’m not the only one who wants to hug the people that sell me my morning coffee, even as I am handing over my hard-earned cash.) I finally got around to turning this idea into an actual article:

Newsworthy events of the last few weeks make for an interesting study in contrast. On one front, Apple Computer has a market capitalization of about $350 billion, and people left notes and gifts of admiration for its recently deceased founder, Steve Jobs. On another front, many financial institutions are concerned about declining profits and laying off workers, and people (many of the Apple supporters, in fact) are marching on Wall Street in protest of the exploitative potential of capitalism. The fact of the matter is that there’s both a good and a bad way to do capitalism, and people, perhaps without even realizing it, understand and appreciate the difference.

I can honestly say that I was surprised by the degree to which the outpouring of support for Steve Jobs made me think. Then again, I think it’s way too easy to forget that Steve Jobs made not only my iPad but also the Apple IIc that my parents bought me when I was in elementary school, and this latter item may have played a role in future life choices and whatnot. *looks at computer science degrees* As such, I felt it was only appropriate to pay my respects:

Thanks Steve…oh, and @#$! you, Bank of America. 🙂

Tags: Econ 101 · Markets

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Marcos El Malo // Nov 6, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    One of the things that you touched in the article that is very important is the question of externalities. Too many companies rely on externalities, for which we all pay the costs, for their profit margins.

    They are basically able to pollute the public sphere, affecting individuals with no connection or relation to their business, and using or ruining resources that belong to each of us and collectively (for example, water and air). This is why we have regulation; Companies cannot be relied on to do the right thing because the leaders of said companies are generally irresponsible.

    If we consider the economy to be a public space and environment, then companies like Goldman Sachs are among the worst polluters. They rely on exploiting externalities to reap huge profits. This is obscene.

    We make BP and other companies clean up their own messes or pay the costs for clean up. Why can’t we make the “great” financial companies and individuals?

    One last thing along those lines: because of the structure and nature of corporations, individuals in management are able to evade responsibility for their mistakes and their egregious behavior. I propose putting executives such as these on regulatory watch lists. They need to be flagged and the companies that the lead should bear extra scrutiny. If an executive moves on to another company, that company should bear the brunt of that extra scrutiny. This may affect executive job prospects and may cause executives to think twice before playing fast and loose with the public good.

  • 2 Matt Harmon // Nov 7, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    “The fact of the matter is that there’s both a good and a bad way to do capitalism, and people, perhaps without even realizing it, understand and appreciate the difference.”

    True, but I feel like a lot of public opinion towards a company has to do with the nature of that company. If Waste Management found a way to significantly reduce the need for landfills it’d be great and we’d all rejoice. But when the instigator of this great new technology passed away I doubt we’d be holding vigils in large numbers across the country. Apple makes products that are cool, deeply personal, and applicable across a range of industries. That increases the public’s appreciation of what they do. There isn’t one oil company that can claim the type of respect from its consumer base that Apple elicits, but no one would really classify the end product of gasoline as cool or personal. And yet, we live in a world still largely dependent on oil. So while many companies do suffer from greed, poor management, and bad risks some industries just seem prone to public ire and distaste due to the very nature of their business even when run well and without corruption.

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