Today’s Courier Herald Column:
Abraham Lincoln once warned that “it is hard to verify quotes on the internet because it is hard to verify their authenticity.” I read that on the internet so it must be true.
It is with that “quote” from Lincoln that will caveat the authenticity of two things I found on Facebook this weekend that frame a big picture debate as we struggle toward an economic rebound.
The first was a quote attributed to Mark Twain. It said simply “Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.”
Several of my friends “liked it” and a good number shared it on their wall. A left leaning friend of mine was the first to comment on it asking “who goes around saying this?” and questioned the attribution to Twain from various right wingers. I have no idea if Twain ever said it, but I posted it because I had just returned from my annual family reunion and it reminded me of things my dad used to say as he did his best to prepare me and my siblings for the harsh realities of life. So if it isn’t Twain’s, I’m sure my late father would be glad to take it.
A few hours later, I ran across a note which is supposedly something Apple employees receive on their first day of work. Apple is currently the world’s most successful publicly traded company if you judge success by shareholder value. It is a company that was virtually insolvent just 15 years ago and is now worth more than a half trillion dollars with some of the best profit margins of any manufacturer in the world.
The note says the following:
There’s work and there’s your life’s work.
The kind of work that has your fingerprints all over it. The kind of work that you’d never compromise on. The kind you’d sacrifice a weekend for. You can do that kind of work at Apple. People don’t come here to play it safe. They come here to swim in the deep end.
They want their work to add up to something.
Something big. Something that couldn’t happen anywhere else.
Welcome to Apple.
The backdrop as I was finding these gems on the internet was the news coming from Europe where French President Sarkozy lost to a socialist candidate promising to soak the rich with 75% tax rates rather than to continue with budget tightening austerity. In Greece, voters threw out leaders who attempted to rescue the country from default by attempting to bring spending in line with the country’s ability to collect taxes.
Here at home, last week’s good news of the drop in unemployment was not due to new jobs being created, but by roughly a half million people leaving the workforce during April alone. One half million people have simply given up trying to find work – much less their life’s work – in one 30 day period.
While this is traditionally and simply a left/right argument, it need not be. Even the far left Occupy Wall Street crowd gleefully paraded around with the latest Apple MacBooks, iPhones and iPads during their encampments. There has to be some recognition of a company that has channeled its employees to greatness. At least on some level, we recognize the risk taking and hard work as good, and the innovation that it creates as worthy.
As consumers, we understand this. As voters, more and more of us want to tax away those gains and redistribute it to those who have given up.
We need fewer people giving up. But we also need more people who understand that the world doesn’t owe us anything either.