This is in response to a statement I read today that “Capitalism breeds innovation.” We’ve all heard that one, along with “War breeds innovation.”
Actually, both statements are true, but not a good argument for keeping either capitalism or war. The truth is, almost anything can lead to innovation.
Whoever first figured out how to use fire did not make a dime. They did it for the good of their tribe and it might have made them very popular, but there was no economic incentive. Ditto, whoever invented the wheel. Not only didn’t they make money, but it wasn’t long before others borrowed, and improved upon, their invention. We don’t even know their name.
Kids innovate all the time, or used to, at any rate, making guns and swords out of sticks, and dolls out of old rags. Life is more pre-packaged now, but I doubt if the old instincts have completely died. Athletes will innovate to win games, actors will innovate to steal a scene, and survivalists will innovate to survive. As a teacher I have innovated, sometimes mid-lesson. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but money is not the motivating factor. Around the world, there are millions of garage tinkerers, amateur gardeners, and stay at home chefs who are innovating all the damn time, and they don’t expect anything out of it except maybe a few words of praise.
Innovation is a deep instinct in our species and it predates capitalism by thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of years.