The Daily Switch

Creative Destruction & Failure

Posted by Ender on April 18, 2009

Schumpeter

Schumpeter

The term Creative Destruction was coined by Joseph Schumpeter in 1942. Creative destruction is the process where old established companies or technologies are destroyed by new or more efficient ones. Schumpeter argued that creative destruction “is the essential fact about capitalism. It is what capitalism consists in and what every capitalist concern has got to live in…” (Schumpeter) What he means is that creative destruction drives capitalism, which makes sense. Capitalism is the only economic theory that encourages innovation and efficiency. With innovation comes the necessity of ridding yourself of the old. Out with the old in with new, if you will. Seems right, why would we want to keep the horse and buggy industry alive when we have cars, right?  With industries constantly evolving and improving lagging companies and technologies will be left behind.

History is rife with examples of creative destruction. Even the youngest of our readers are witnessing creative destruction as we speak. The music industry is a perfect example we have gone from records to 8 tracks to cassettes to CDs to MP3s. This is creative destruction at its finest replacing costly, low quality, inefficient products with cheap, high quality, efficient products. Other examples include iron to steel, Polaroid to digital camera, warehouse sized computers to the iPhone. One generally can’t complain about these advances.

In my opinion there is another branch of creative destruction that is usually poorly received. This type of creative destruction is the failure of businesses. The media, politicians and consumers in general decry the failure of business. But to be good citizens we must reject this urge and ask “why do businesses fail?”

At the most basic level businesses fail because a.) they are not satisfying the consumer and/or b.) they are using resources ineffectively. We should view this failure as a triumph of the free market because a.) who wants to keep a company around that is making warehouse sized computers these days? And b.) inefficient companies failing frees up valuable resources for efficient companies. Both good things.

Walmart is a good example of this second type. Walmart discovered a way to use its resources more efficiently thus lowering the cost of its products for the consumer, which in turn drove inefficient companies like KMart or various mom and pops out of business. The failure of these other businesses benefited the consumer. Unfortunately, failure of business is fought to the inevitable death (of the business) by politicians looking for votes. All this fight does is waste the taxpayers money and delay the inevitable.

Watch this video for a debate on GM going bankrupt.

In the video Gillespie tells us why we need to let GM fail. They are not too big to fail. He really summed it up perfectly in the opening minute when he says [to paraphrase] “that GM and Toyota sold about the same amount of cars worldwide, GM lost $38B and Toyota made $19B.” Clearly, there is something fundamentally and systemically wrong with the way GM runs its business. It just cannot compete in today’s economy. We need to let creative destruction or failure take place to free up resources for the better companies. Gillespie brings up several other good points about GM and bailouts in general. He also has to defend a cheap pot shot from his counterpart when he says something to the effect that the free market only works on paper.

Let these companies fall into bankruptcy, restructure their business and come back with the ability to compete.  Don’t spend taxpayer money on corporate welfare.  Don’t throw good money after what is clearly bad.  Don’t follow the politicians and drones in the media down the path of state run economies and massive systemic failure.  Rejoice that the free market separates the wheat from the chaff.  Appreciate creative destruction.

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3 Responses to “Creative Destruction & Failure”

  1. Excellent!

  2. Spitter said

    Well thougth!

  3. Liberty Lloyd said

    On US car companies, can you spell UNIONS? They have a stranglehold on auto makers. What else can account for the disparity between GM and Toyota?

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