One of the interesting things about major companies is that they have a lot of opportunity to open factories in relatively undesirable locations, with the locals rolling out the welcome mats and competing to offer the most generous incentives. But as the area in which you want to open a plant or put up a large building or warehouse store becomes more desirable, as a general rule, the offers diminish and the obstacles grow. I'm reminded of a Michigan community which had zoned a large tract of land as "light industrial" in the hope of attracting an industrial park, only to have it sit empty. A major retailer made noises about opening a location there - cheap land, close enough to major roads and population centers to be viable. A local store owner who, having spent decades pulling profits out of his store and putting nothing back in, fought tooth and nail to prevent the rezoning and, when it passed, litigated the issue. By the time the dust settled the land was rezoned, but the big box merchant had moved on. In China? The government was behind the redevelopment plan, so it would have happened. (And if the government wasn't behind it, odds are a 'consultant' could have found a way to
Whatever Jobs thought about environmental regulations, I suspect that his objection was more to the inefficiency of local government and the ability of a local business or citizens group to tie things up for years. I suspect he was speaking from comparative experience opening Apple stores in the U.S. versus other nations. And I suspect he was thinking specifically of why the A6 chip was not going to be manufactured in the United States. For somebody in high tech, a six month delay in opening a chip factory may as well be a lifetime. For somebody in consumer electronics, a relatively small increase in production costs can mean the difference between profit and loss.
Jobs was reportedly 'infuriated' by President Obama's "focus on the reasons that things can't get done". That's what you might expect from a man who didn't have to accept excuses from those under him - "If you can't get it done, I'll put somebody else in charge." That's not even the way most industry works, though, and it's certainly not the way our form of government works.
Would I want to reinvent the country in a way that would have pleased Steve Jobs? From what I've been hearing, no, I would not. I believe China would be better off adopting some of our regulations than we would be in adopting their system of... what's the word for a totalitarian state led by a corrupt oligarchy that will treat you like a king if they expect to profit? There's no easy way to avoid problems and delays in rezoning, development and redevelopment that don't trample somebody's toes, and we know how Steve Jobs reacted when it was his own toes that were being trampled.