Excerpt from Chapter V
MYTH 4: CAPITALIST COMPETITION IS ESSENTIAL FOR INNOVATION
One of the great myths supporting anti-government rhetoric is that innovation is brought about only by market forces. This myth holds that the human inventive capacity is activated only by the promise of profit and comes from the competitive drive unleashed in the free, private-enterprise system. As long as this myth prevails, nothing – particularly government – can be permitted to inhibit that system, since to do so would mean stifling creativity and progress. There are two components to this myth: “competition” and “innovation.” I will address them separately.
Competitiveness appears to be an inherent animal need for ascendancy – to be “the best,” to “win,” to “come out on top,” to “control” anything from individuals and a group to a territory and an entire society. It is a defining element that expresses itself, in one form or another, in all of us. This drive seems to have its roots in survival of the individual or the group. It is an immensely complex characteristic in humans, driving psychologists, sociologists, evolutionary biologists, neuroscientists, and a host of other professionals to study it. In Chapter VIII, I note how the Oedipal relationship, as defined by Sigmund Freud, is considered by many as a universal basis for the competitive drive.
Interestingly, the development of the human race up to the eighteenth century, when capitalism asserted itself, is written in the history of innovation – from fire and the wheel to the steam engine, which fostered modern capitalism. This should not be surprising, since the human creative drive is irrepressible. It is a human-defining characteristic that supercedes all external conditions – political, economic, and otherwise – and, indeed, creates many of these conditions. What we call innovation is the product of human creativity, which functions under any circumstances, even the most repressive.