Apple is worth more than Poland? No, it isn't

As Apple's valuation soars to $500 billion, headlines scream that the company is now worth more than certain countries. Have we lost our sense of worth?

Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

With Greece teetering on the brink of post-history and Italy constantly attempting to out-buffoon itself, the concept of "nation" is under a little pressure.

Then along comes Apple, hurtling toward style domination, and suddenly it seems to have a market valuation greater than some world economies.

One headline this week, though, crowed slightly beyond reason. "Apple is now worth more than Poland," it read.

It was the use of the word "worth" that caused my cabbage pierogi to resist their final resting place.

Is Apple really "worth" more than Poland? I know that many Americans view monetary aggregation as being the only true measure of worth. There is, indeed, something objective about it. A number is attached to it. And yet the accumulation of money somehow doesn't seem to preclude the utter lack of value.

Poland and Apple do have many similarities: a fondness for obstinacy, a keenness to cock a snook at convention, and a hearty sense of pride.

However, it might be, um, worth, considering the relative merits of Apple and Poland to see which one truly might be worth more.

I am sure that fanpersons--and there's already a ThingsAppleIsWorthMoreThan Tumblr feed--will immediately point to the iconic presence of Steve Jobs.

He transformed several industries. He allowed us to carry all of our favorite pictures in our gym shorts. He boosted our self-esteem by creating gorgeous items that far surpass a Tiffany ring or a tight Gucci trouser in their sheer allure.

For Poland, may I present Mikolaj Kopernik? You might know him as Nicolaus Copernicus (but you shouldn't). He didn't do much, save for helping humans understand that the Earth might not be the center of everything. Oh, you can also call him the founding force behind modern astronomy, if you like.

Citizens of Fanboysiland will counter with the idea that no one was able to bring more music to your ears in a simpler, more beautiful way, than Apple.

Who could disagree? But, just for amusement's sake, let's offer the idea that Apple didn't create the music. Poland did. Is there really any need to write too long a list of great Polish musicians? Why don't we just start with Chopin and leave it there?

You will tell me that Apple is about to revolutionize the way we watch TV.

I will sigh and begin to reel off a few names of Polish film industry names, some of whose movies you have surely seen: Samuel Goldwyn, the Warner Brothers (yes, all of them), Roman Polanski. I could add Billy Wilder too, as the part of Poland he's from was, at the time, sucked in by the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

As an aside, did you see how hard Poles fought against ACTA?

Hold on there, you will cry. Apple was on the brink of extinction before Jobs rode in on a one-horse chariot in order to save the company and direct it to glory.

Poland, I might suggest, was partitioned more often than Tom Cruise's hair. The Swedes, the Germans, the Russians, the Austro-Hungarians, they all thought they could take their chunk--or even all of it. And yet somehow Poland always managed to claw its way back.

Yes, Poland has had a few years on Apple. Yes, I am biased here, as my last name--which so many English people wanted me to change to Matthews or Smith--is, indeed, Polish, as are both my parents. And, yes, my mum--who is having a little trouble with terminal cancer--just might have asked me to write this post.

Of course, there will come a day--after we reach Our Robot Millennium--when companies will be more revered than countries. Then, culture will be something grown by corporations, rather than seeded through dated ideas such as blood and custom.

But, until then, can we just say that Apple has a huge amount of money-- more, supposedly, than Uncle Sam --and leave it at that? Please?

 

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