It is not unusual to point out the firm Apple as the best example to be followed by the other Western companies. It represents not only a successful business but also the values our economies try to promote: vision, leadership, creativity, innovation, collaboration, knowledge management, team building, cutting edge technology. All that required to supposedly get these economies back on track.
However, by taking the same company as a sample, sadly today for the death of its founder Steve Jobs, we may reach an entirely different point. In order to show it, I propose the following questions:
– How many people does Apple employ either directly or indirectly in the US and how many in the developing countries from Asia, Africa or Latin America?
– How many iPods, iPads, PCs and tablets does Apple sell in the US or in other Western regions and how many in the developing countries?
– What do these products cost in the US and the other Western territories and what do they cost in the developing economies? Moreover, does the salary of Apple’s employees in the emerging countries allow them to buy such stuff?
– Regardless of the answer to the questions above, what percentage of Apple’s benefits are reaped in the developing countries and return to the US to be reinvested in the productive economy and which remains right there to renew and increase the manufacture facilities or even deposited at a higher interest rate in other financial systems?
I guess the following to apply by extension to the whole Western economy: the West is trying to keep its consumption level but without truly doing the job. Thus, we are all called to consume what we are not called to produce any more. Curiously, stuff that average people from the developing countries (the producers) cannot afford though they learn quite quickly to copy for their own markets first and for the Western ones over time.
For sure, Apple is a highly profitable company, but in economic terms and looking at the biggest picture, the issue is not only who comes up with the best idea or who invents the leading technology (which is also important). The issue is where are the items produced and where are they sold.
If other families produce my ideas and I can just sell the result of those ideas to my family members, thus paying such production with the money of my family to the members of the other families, I am delivering my knowledge, spreading my ideas and, so importantly, giving my family’s money. It does not matter how cheap the product becomes per unit thanks to the other families. In the long run and at a very large scale, my family will be losing control over a huge amount of money. And consequently, I will, regardless if in the meantime I eventually become very rich. That money is consistently required to be transfered from my family (the only mass market that essentially exists for my value-added products) to the other families (the only massive producers). The one we completely depend on to keep prices relatively low. So, there is neither fresh money – just debt – nor substantial benefits reaped for us, as a family group, within the knowleded based economy. Because that money it is necessarily linked to the manufacture sphere.
Thus, I may become richer thanks to that new knowledge and technology but at the expense of my own people (my current market – therefore to be replaced sooner or later).
Here is the big contradiction of our Western society and economy. Just sustainable if we think in terms of a new and true global market. Not just global economy, but market.
However, will be the planet ready for such a new scale of human-predator?