The Economics of Creative Destruction

Among other remarkable characteristics, humans are intelligent, bipedal, and have opposable thumbs. But so do other great apes, albeit to a comparatively limited degree. What is uniquely human? What distinguishes humans lies in their phenomenal ability to transform matter.

Broadly understood, humans take existing matter and make stuff out of them. They cut down trees to make lumber; they smelt ores to make metals, etc. They build houses and make metal pots and pans. They do it deliberately, consciously and purposefully. To create anything, some materials have to be transformed from their original form — which necessarily means the destruction of the original form or function. Creation and destruction are inseparable. You cannot have one without the other.

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