Steve Wozniak: Corporations regulate us

Steve Wozniak

Steve Wozniak

Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Wozniak wasn’t known in his youth as a public speaker. He was always the shy one, letting his gregarious partner Steve Jobs do the talking, with amazing results. However, in his first TEDx talk in Brussels in 2012 (a year after Jobs died), Wozniak let go some passionate free thinking about corporations that is very relevant today, and which should perk up the ears of all progressives. More than once in his speech, Wozniak said that corporations “regulate” us.

Here’s what Wozniak said specifically:

I wanted the little guy … to be more important than the big huge companies that basically controlled our life and controlled what we could and couldn’t do. The ones that regulate us in a sense.

Wozniak went on to talk about software and media companies that force us to sign user agreements that they write, in their favor, giving them ownership rights and absolving them of legal liability when things go wrong. According to Wozniak:

What is regulation about? You know, everybody fears “regulation takes away freedom,” is a common thing that’s said. I disagree entirely…. Governments will regulate the bad guys that are already regulating our lives. Now, it might be big cable, it might be big telephone, that wants to regulate how we can use the Internet, what we can connect to, what data we’re going to receive, how much we’re going to pay. They want, they’re the ones who want to regulate the individual thinkers, the real innovators. Government regulation of the regulators is very appropriate in a case like this. (emphasis added)

Steve Wozniak’s characterization of corporations as entities that “regulate” us is exactly why we all need what we at Messaging Matters call “Good Government.” This is the idea that conservatives are giving us a false choice between what they call “Big Government” and “Freedom,” when in fact, as Wozniak makes clear in his speech, the real choice in our society is between Big Corporations run amok, which “regulate us,” and Good Government which provides a check against those corporations. We as a society should of course, and often do, debate how much government versus unchecked corporate power there should be, and we know that where one comes down on this scale virtually defines whether one is a liberal/progressive/Democrat or a conservative/Republican. But recognizing, as Wozniak does, that corporations have immense power over our lives, curtail our freedom and need to be watched over to some degree, is a healthy place to start.

Photo by inUse Experience, used under Creative Commons license.

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