Score one for Progress over Bureaucrats
By the middle of the 20th century, Sears Roebuck had come to town as the nation’s largest retailer, with stores that defined many towns’ downtowns. But in Bentonville, Ark., Sam Walton had an idea for bigger stores on the outskirts of towns. Sears has become a casualty of Wal-Mart’s retailing revolution. Today new mothers sign up at Amazon Mom for regular deliveries of diapers. This is a 21st-century permutation of an innovation in long-distance commerce that began in 19th-century Chicago.
Creative destruction continues in the digital age. After 244 years — it began publication five years before the 1773 Boston Tea Party — the Encyclopedia Britannica will henceforth be available only in digital form as it tries to catch up to reference websites such as Google and Wikipedia.
America now is divided between those who find this social churning unnerving and those who find it exhilarating. Theodore Roosevelt, America’s first progressive president, thought it was government’s duty to “look ahead and plan out the right kind of civilization.” TR looked ahead and saw a “timber famine” caused by railroads’ ravenous appetites for crossties that rotted. He did not foresee creosote, which preserves crossties. Imagine all the things government planners cannot anticipate when, in their defining hubris, they try to impose their static dream of the “right kind” of future.
Il est toujours fascinant de constater que la gauche, que l’on dit pourtant progressiste, est réactionnaire quand il s’agit de faire face au processus de « destruction créatrice » propre à nos économies.