Did Steve Jobs Hate the State?

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There are many clues that he just may have.

It appears that Jobs was an original gold bug. He recommended in 1979 that Grinnell College, where he was a trustee, invest in gold. This doesn’t make him a hater of the state, but it shows an early distrust of government created paper money. But, let’s continue on.

According to a recent disclosure report, Apple spent $560,000 lobbying the federal government in the first quarter of 2011, roughly one-third the amount that Google and Microsoft each spent in the same period. And Apple spent a good portion of its lobbying efforts fighting off the state, versus using the state to hinder its competitors.

The company’s first-quarter filing lists lobbying activity for "issues related to transportation of batteries." That is, in April, the House of Representatives passed a bill protecting Apple and other electronics manufacturers from limitations that would classify lithium batteries as hazardous materials.

Apple also is part of the "Win America Campaign" lobbying group that is calling for tax breaks for corporations who repatriate offshore earnings.

Apple also signed up to a campaign against US government’s ability to inspect customer data on computers without warrant.

Overall a pretty damn solid anti-state lobbying stance.

And who can forget the video which recorded the icy silence from Jobs, when Cupertino city council members tried to shake Jobs down for free Wi-Fi and an Apple Store in Cupertino.

Most fascinating, Jobs never got a license plate for his car.

The auto marketing magazine, Polk, writes:

Mr. Jobs drove a silver 2007 Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG without a license plate.

Why? Nobody knows for sure, and multiple theories have been bandied about in Silicon Valley. Some think it’s a high-tech vehicle code distortion field or custom-built mechanized plate retractor. Others insist that overzealous fans swipe the roadster’s tags every time they’re mounted. I even saw one blogger opine it was because the font on California license plates is so ugly. His theory is that Mr. jobs couldn’t stand to mar the aesthetics of a beautiful vehicle with the product of some state assemblyman’s sense of style. Maybe it’s simply because he could get away with it.

And that brings us to the other aspect to this mystery. How exactly did Steve Jobs drive a plateless car for four years without ever getting ticketed for the infraction? A search of traffic records confirms that he successfully avoided plate-related fines. Again, theories abound, but I think it’s just a matter of playing the odds.

Or, perhaps, it was simply that Jobs was not impressed with government demands to do this or that.

There’s no smoking gun here, but the great entrepreneur appears to have had at least a healthy distrust of government and perhaps much more. A private man, perhaps he chose to keep his views about the government private, since broadcasting them might have made Apple a more noticed target by the government. But actions do speak louder than words, and a pro-gold Steve Jobs, who stands up to a city council, lobbies for tax cuts and doesn’t bother to get a license plate for his car, suggests an awful lot about what he likely thought about government.

Reprinted with permission from Economic Policy Journal.

2011 Economic Policy Journal