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Thank you, Steve

Steve Jobs has resigned from his leadership position at Apple. He is unable to fulfill his obligations to the company.

Very sad day. He is 56 years old.

The headlines say he remade industries. The articles talk about how he gave consumers what they wanted. But he famously didn’t give consumers what they wanted. He imagined what they might enjoy wanting and then he gave it to them. Yes, he remade industries. But he did more than that. He changed the way we interact with information and music, the way we consume information and music, and the way we create it. It is hard to think of anyone who changed the fabric of so many lives in such a positive way. I say that as I write these words on a MacBook Pro, listening to Irish music via iTunes, my iPhone in my pocket. And of course his influence extends beyond the Apple products created under his leadership. Those products influenced the products of Apple’s competitors.

His success illustrates the sterility of the mainstream approach in economics to corporate strategy and the theory of the firm. The theory of the firm in neoclassical theory focuses on how much the firm should produce and optimal capacity. Game theory looks at strategic issues arising under various payoffs. Neither approach captures the nature of innovation, the trial and error risk-taking of the visionary entrepreneur or the power of creative destruction to enrich our lives. These ideas are at the heart of the Austrian approach to the firm, an approach that has made even less headway in mainstream academic circles than Austrian business cycle theory. I don’t know much about it other than its flavor. I’m going to read some more.

I hope Steve Jobs can overcome this latest health setback. In the meanwhile, thank you, Steve.