Conservative Disdain for iPhone Ownership Is Nancy Pelosi Obnoxious

Conservative Disdain for iPhone Ownership Is Nancy Pelosi Obnoxious
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A snowstorm that began late on Saturday night had Washington, D.C. covered in snow by Sunday morning. My almost 2 ½ year old daughter predictably wanted to see the whiteout up close, so I took her to a nearby park.

It was packed with parents, their kids, and as the park has hilly areas, lots of sleds. Kids and parents rode on the sleds down the slight incline over and over again.

As readers might imagine, more ubiquitous than sleds were smartphones. Parents snapped photo after photo, filmed sled-ride after sled-ride, and from the looks of the people in the park, those photos and videos were immediately sent not just around the U.S., but around the world.

In my case, the photos and videos I took traveled all the way to southern California to my daughter’s grandparents, her aunt, plus there’s no telling where they forwarded what was sent to them. This also doesn’t factor in my wife.

She was out of town on a work trip, and was more than a bit sad to miss our daughter’s first real day in the snow. So while pictures and videos could in no way measure up to witnessing all the fun in person, I was able to send her a constant stream of moving and still shots as she waited to board a plane over 1,500 miles away.

The joy made possible by smartphones on Sunday brought to mind recent commentary from certain members of the right about increasingly broad ownership of the phones/computers/cameras that remarkably fit in our pockets. Apparently it’s no big deal that more and more of us own them, and to believe the conservatives who think they’re no big deal, they believe it’s problematic that smartphone ubiquity obscures other societal ills that they presume to have the policy answers for. Their hubris is unfortunate. Please read on. 

One commentator recently questioned in sarcastic fashion whether “cheaper iPhones” and more “Amazon deliveries” actually make Americans happier. Yes on both counts, despite what the pundit believes.

Though anecdote is certainly not fact, judging by the park I visited on Sunday it was apparent that iPhones and other smartphones enable abundant happiness. These “cheaper iPhones” were an elemental source of fun for the numerous visitors to the park, not to mention the multiples of those not there, but who got to see grandsons, granddaughters, nieces, nephews, godsons and goddaughters frolic in the snow.

Shameful is that commentators could be so out of touch as to cast aspersions on what makes life safer (instant access to 911 from anywhere, for instance), infinitely more convenient (how long could most readers happily drive without the GPS function?), and happier for those so lucky to own a pocket-sized computer/phone/camera capable of blasting photos and videos around the world within seconds. One wonders how long the conservatives who think the smartphone a facile and shallow bauble of capitalism could actually go without their own. 

As for Amazon’s growing reach, members of the commentariat would be wise to remember that not everyone lives in New York, Washington, D.C. or Los Angeles. That they don’t is relevant to this discussion simply because Amazon’s ability to shrink the world in a figurative sense is surely a driver of happiness. It is simply because the products that were once solely available to people in the biggest cities now reach customers within two days regardless of where they live. Better yet, Amazon’s unrelenting desire to meet the needs of its customers likely means that two days will eventually be two minutes for certain goods that were once out of reach.

Indeed, it used to be that families would drive, and sometimes fly from Jonesboro (AR) to Memphis, or New Orleans to Houston, in order to access clothes and other products not immediately available locally. Lest readers forget, Minneapolis’s famed Mall of America was conceived not to serve residents of the Twin Cities, but instead to meet the needs of “under-malled” Americans residing in small towns and cities hundreds of miles from Minneapolis. The Mall of America was located where it is given its accessibility by car and airplane for tens of millions Americans not so lucky as to live minutes from capitalism’s plenty. Think about that for a second.

It’s worth contemplating when it’s remembered that when the 20th century began, automobiles were rarer than millionaires. And millionaires were exceedingly rare. Thank goodness for Henry Ford, the Steve Jobs or Jeff Bezos of his time, for democratizing access to cars. Considering the Mall of America’s proximity to Minneapolis International Airport (this is not a coincidence), it’s easily forgotten that as recently as the 1960s and ‘70s, an overwhelming majority of Americans had never flown on an airplane before. Capitalism is what puts the word “former” before “luxury.”

Bringing this all back to the dismissal of iPhone accessibility among certain conservatives, they loudly wear their naivete on their sleeves. Just as “cheaper” cars and airplane tickets transformed life, so is the growing accessibility of “cheaper” supercomputers a major triumph of capitalism that results in convenience and joy for billions. These advances are perhaps harder for members of the commentariat to appreciate simply because they’ve likely never lived far from quality shopping and culture, plus cars, airplane rides and long-distance communication were maybe never viewed by them as luxuries as is. Ok, but to most they were luxuries and still are.

No doubt some of these commentators are very articulate, and entertaining too. But let’s not mistake what their talents mean for the typical person relative to capitalism’s advances of the car, airplane and smartphone variety. There’s no comparison.

Which is why their casual disdain for what’s become common is so disappointing. Yet disdain is what some express. Access to former luxuries that few could live without is apparently somewhat meaningless in the eyes of deep thinkers, particularly as it supposedly whitewashes over the shrinking ability of the common man “to participate meaningfully in the labor market.” Oh please.

Those so sheltered as to be nonchalant about broad technological access forget that we’re only able to buy things insofar as we supply things first. That Americans can more and more exchange their paychecks for the world’s plenty is the surest sign that workers are increasingly participating “meaningfully in the labor market.”

After that, it’s passing strange that the serious thinkers who’ve likely touched very few common hands in modern times would think the import of their thoughts could ever hope to measure up to the genius of products created via profit and loss. Yet that’s what they’re implicitly saying. They believe luxuries they almost certainly would be lost without are not enough for those who don’t live in their world. That’s just obnoxious. It’s out-of-touch Nancy Pelosi obnoxious.

Those so obtuse as to disdain capitalistic triumphs of the smartphone variety quite simply need to get out more. Visit a park maybe, an office, or even a home filled with senior citizens eagerly awaiting texts that include pictures and videos of loved ones. They should see the impact up close. Maybe then they’ll alter their insouciant poses about technology that, as its ubiquity attests, is happily improving life far more than the wit of the pundit class could ever hope to.

John Tamny is editor of RealClearMarkets, Director of the Center for Economic Freedom at FreedomWorks, and a senior economic adviser to Toreador Research and Trading ( His new book is titled They're Both Wrong: A Policy Guide for America's Frustrated Independent Thinkers. Other books by Tamny include The End of Work, about the exciting growth of jobs more and more of us love, Who Needs the Fed? and Popular Economics. He can be reached at  

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