Sunday, June 12, 2011

Enemy of the good

We recently got this message by email, criticizing our choice of Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Apple’s Steve Jobs as Ayn Rand heroes in our new book I Am John Galt:
Well, I don't consider the leaders of two of the most left-leaning businesses in the world, men who do not have the premises of John Galt to be considered John Galt. In fact, Gates virtually gave his fortune away and Apple support Barack Obama. If this book is to have any credibility it must consider the full context of these men and both have altruism deep in their core.
The author of this message has clearly not read I Am John Galt. For one thing, we do not liken either Gates or Jobs to John Galt – we save that distinction for BB&T’s former CEO John Allison. We liken Gates to Henry Rearden, the great industrialist who was persecuted by government, and Steve Jobs to Howard Roark, the ultimate individualist artist.

Stills from videotape of Bill Gates' depositio...Image via Wikipedia
Bill Gates deposition at 1998 US vs Microsoft trial
Also, in the case of Gates, we deal explicitly with the tragedy of his stepping down from Microsoft and giving his wealth away instead of producing more. We have “considered the full context.” But tragedy or not, Gates earned his wealth and has the right to give it away if that serves his values. Nothing in Rand’s philosophy prohibits voluntary acts of charity – that is not the same thing as altruism.

As to Jobs, I don’t see why we have to subject him to a political litmus test in order to admire his extraordinary egoism that has enabled him to revolutionize four major industries, letting nothing or no one stand in his way. That’s not something someone with “altruism deep in their core” could do, even if he did put Al Gore on his board of directors.

I would encourage the person who emailed us to lighten up a bit, and consider that in the real world even imperfect people can do great things by following as many of Ayn Rand’s values as they can. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Oh – and read the book. If a critique is to “have any credibility,” one should know what one is talking about. And one may actually like it!
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1 comment:

getburl said...

I would like to challenge your choice of Gates for Rearden, but for a different reason. Based on the evidence in the code of the original DOS and CP/M operating systems and the other evidence cited in They Made America and other sources. I read that you mentioned Gary Kildall and I was subsequently surprised that you did not recognize Gates as the characterized "savant" who lacked the social and moral skills to dissuade himself from stealing the base code that later became DOS after a quick laundering as qDOS. I am not certain of Gates theft but based on the evidence in the CP/M case and other indicators from the rest of his career, it seems more likely than not. Because of this, I ask you to reconsider Gates as Rearden. Rearden was an innovator. Gates was only able to recognize a good thing, steal it, and repackage it as a commodity. Gates certainly embodies the persecuted role that Rearden did but he does not come close to fulfilling the Innovator role.