Recently, the Financial Times noted that “spurred in part by iPad anticipation, shareholder enthusiasm has more than doubled Apple’s market capitalization in the past year, driving it past Google and Walmart.” The Brit paper noted that, with a market cap of some $214 billion, Apple Computer was worth more than any other publicly-traded company in the United States, except ExxonMobile and Microsoft.
I appreciate the sleek lines of Apple’s devices as much as anyone who isn’t an employee or stockholder. I used to have a few shares, which I sold after the last split. But Apple is essentially a consumer-product design company. CEO Steve Jobs and his well-dressed cadres seem only secondarily interested in operating systems — and, in that regard, their interest seems to be in keeping those systems closed. The fact that Apple has become the third-most valuable company in America says a lot about the direction of the economy. It also suggests that the job market is becoming a harsh realm for anyone without strong tech skills and a keen fashion eye.
In a philosophical sense, I don’t mind these developments. But they may explain why the crude rent-seeking tricks of groups like the Service Employees International Union have been so effective. In their guts, SEIU members understand that they don’t measure up.