The death of one of the great innovators of our time, or any time -- Steve Jobs -- brings a question asked by Pete Seeger in another context. To paraphrase: Where have all the (creative) people gone; long time passing. Jobs and fellow computer innovator Bill Gates represent if not a vanishing breed, then at least one that might be classified, were it an exotic animal, as endangered.
In a country that used to encourage, promote, honor and reward innovation, why does there now seem to be far fewer innovators? In our past, they propelled us to higher standards of living and made life more enjoyable and comfortable. If you missed them while studying sex education in school, try Googling "inventors and innovators" and see what pops up.
Once we applauded innovation. Now, politicians like President Obama, denounce the successful, maliciously labeling them "millionaires and billionaires," as if success were a flu virus that we needed an inoculation to protect ourselves from. If we penalize and stigmatize success we are likely to get less of it. If we promote and encourage the principles that can lead to success, we are certain to get more successful people and the entire world will benefit as a result.
Instead of admiring the principles that propelled people to become successful and encourages others to follow the example of a Steve Jobs, President Obama and so many in the liberal political establishment, treat them like shoplifters who have stolen what rightfully belonged to others, even though others may not have worked as hard, taken as many risks or invested as much capital. For one of many examples, look at the "Wall Street occupiers" who are clogging streets and buildings far from Wall Street.
When you plant, water and fertilize a field of seed corn, you get a bumper crop. When you deny the field these basic elements, you get nothing. It is the same with inventiveness and innovation. Benjamin Franklin noted, "He that is good for making excuses is seldom good at anything else." We make excuses for failure and mediocrity and get more of both. Celebrity and sex occupy more and more of our time and attention, as opposed to hard work and commitment.
Thomas Edison, another great innovator, observed, "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." Or, if you prefer Auntie Mame: "Life's a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death."
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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