Monday, January 05, 2009

Schumpeter and reading fiction

I took time this weekend to actually read some fiction. Sure, I had other things I should have been doing. It’s just been itching in me. I see it in the way I think. I need to move beyond the tangible randomness of numbers, symbols, equations. School is taxing, zaps my mental energy, but it leaves full parts of my brain unexercised. The closest thing to what I was used to through the rest of my schooling was reading Schumpeter. When the professor passed around copied pages of an old text, I felt a warm familiarity. So many previous assignments came in this exact form. And even then the text called for re-reading, pondering, questioning. Things notable absent from my recent studies.

The question in Schumpeter is the notion of creative destruction, the idea that capitalism is a constantly changing form, ever evolving as even great companies need to be destroyed and rebuilt. He argues, like Marx, that capitalism has an inevitable end. He explained, in ways I had not yet seen, that socialism is seen as a replacement for capitalism, its natural successor. And while I see some parts of socialism as a natural evolution from strict capitalism, I now understand why capitalists fight so hard against socialism. It is the antithesis to the form they believe is best. Any move to socialism means a further erosion of capitalism and a step closer to its demise.

Schumpeter doesn’t see capitalism as inherently flawed in the same way as Marx. It just is not static. It changes, requiring the biggest and most formidable capitalist institutions to collapse in order to be rebuilt. Maybe that explains some of what is going on these days. At least reading this reminds me that I’m much more comfortable with theory than I am with calculating aggregate demand curves or with linear regression.

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