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Creative Destruction

June 17, 2009

Proponents of unfettered free market capitalism cite as one its strengths and advantages its ability to adapt to changing conditions and preferences through a process they like to call creative destruction.  Those who use the term do not consider it either oxymoronic or even ironic that the market should create something better in the process of destroying something old or outmoded.

Markets and those who operate within them are not alone in thinking this way.  Adherents to the Gospel of Social Darwinism suggest that those fittest for leadership roles are those who meet challenges head-on.  They define success in terms of defeating  foes or at least living and learning from losses by using these experiences to arise renewed and retooled to fight again another day.  Part of their strength, adherents to this theory hold, comes from abandoning ways of thinking and working that prove themselves unsuccessful and therefore unsuitable for continued or future use.

We should not assume, however, that the process of destroying something to make something else, even if it is newer or better, always makes sense.  In fact, we might do well to question whether it is ever appropriate.

We as human beings reflect the continued accretion of experience and knowledge.  We remain works in progress.  Nothing we see or learn or do is ever really abandoned.  It becomes part of us just as we are and will remain part of the wider world in which we experience it.

The creative process neither requires nor encourages the destruction or abandonment of the old in pursuit of the new.  Making a better future requires us to acknowledge the value of our experiences, good and bad, and act in the now to build rather than destroy.

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