Creative Destruction: Pretty Much a Good Thing
The house of the right should have many mansions, whether it’s the cathedrals of the theocons, the country clubs of the RINOs, the unadorned blocks and towers of the Randians, the revival tents of Huckabee County and… well, you get my point. There’s even a modest Arts-and-Crafts place, complete with vegetable garden, for the crunchy cons, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t read chief crunchy Rod Dreher’s encomium to that awful speech by the Archbishop of Canterbury with a sinking feeling, particularly when I saw that Rod had written this:
It’s this religious and moral dimension to the economy [apparently that's how Rod interpreted Williams' pious leftist bromides] that so many Republicans fail to appreciate. How can you praise the “creative destruction” of markets, as Palin does, while also praising tradition and continuity, as she also does, and as Republicans do?
Where to begin? I’m all for offering a helping hand to those who find themselves on the wrong side of creative destruction (a phrase that is sometimes used too glibly – the destruction can indeed be very destructive), but taken as a whole the process is beneficial, essential and, in a way that crunchy cons should appreciate, natural.
Some of the thoughts of the great neoclassical economist Alfred Marshall (!842-1924) on this topic can be found here. You can’t get crunchier than this extract:
But here we may read a lesson from the young trees of the forest as they struggle upwards through the benumbing shade of their older rivals. Many succumb on the way, and a few only survive; those few become stronger with every year, they get a larger share of light and air with every increase of their height, and at last in their turn they tower above their neighbours, and seem as though they would grow on for ever, and for ever become stronger as they grow. But they do not. One tree will last longer in full vigour and attain a greater size than another; but sooner or later age tells on them all. Though the taller ones have a better access to light and air than their rivals, they gradually lose vitality; and one after another they give place to others, which, though of less material strength, have on their side the vigour of youth.
The alternative, of course, is stagnation and, in all likelihood, decay. I found it rather telling that Rod’s next post was another encomium, this time to Mount Athos, a doubtless beautiful, but, from the sound of it, profoundly depressing place that appears to be stuck in the archaic customs, futile contemplations and smugly timeless rhythms of a thousand years ago. To Rod, this Greek peninsula is the “Christian Tibet,” an equally telling, and distinctly questionable, compliment given the brutal and primitive nature of life under Tibet’s former theocracy (an unpleasant reality that does not, of course, justify the fact or the nature of China’s subsequent occupation of that tragic country).