All Commentary
Thursday, October 1, 1987

Perspective: On Creativity

The philosopher A. N. Whitehead once noted that creativity, throughout the ages, has been depicted in two radically different ways.

On the one hand, creativity frequently is depicted in terms of the ordering of chaos. A drive to order seemingly characterizes the cosmos and human life, and that drive is what often is meant by “creativity.”

On the other hand, creativity also is depicted in terms of that which disturbs what is static and unchanging—and therefore what is perfectly “ordered”—by the novel, the new, the unpredicted. A drive to originality seemingly characterizes the cosmos and human life, and that drive is what sometimes is meant by “creativity.”

Whitehead insisted that creativity involves both dimensions. The cosmos is characterized both by a drive to order and a drive to novelty. Human life likewise is informed by both drives.

These two forms of creativity find expression in the market economy. The market process simultaneously coordinates and liberates, unifies and diversifies, orders and innovates. Diverse activities and attempts to realize very different visions of the “good life” are coordinated and linked, order conquering chaos. At the same time, old and established ways of doing things yield to new and more efficient ways, the market making possible the benign process that Joseph Schumpeter called “creative destruction.”

A drive to order without a drive to novelty leads to what is static, unchanging, and dead. A drive to novelty without a drive to order leads to what is chaotic, random, and incapable of sustaining rational activity. The world displays both drives.

So does the free market in the free society. Which, I submit, is significant.

John K. Williams

Land of the Free?

In this year of the bicentennial of the United States Constitution, when Americans celebrate our most cherished freedoms, including freedom of speech and freedom of the press, we might pause to consider the full implications of a recent decision by the United States District Court in Richmond, Virginia (reported in The Wall Street Journal, May 14, 1987).

The court ruled that an apartment management firm in Richmond violated Federal fair housing laws by almost exclusively using white models in an advertising brochure. The court fined the firm $12,800.

It is easy to get caught up in questions of race, fairness, and discrimination in considering this decision. But there are other questions to consider: Whatever happened to freedom of speech? Whatever happened to freedom of the press? Whatever happened to the basic right to go about our peaceful affairs without being intimidated and coerced by government officials?

For a penetrating analysis of the unkept promise of the United States Constitution, and the means to reclaim that promise, see Ridgway Foley’s article on page 364.


Time Will Tell

Much concern has been expressed in this century about the semantic piracy that has left us, who are advocates of human liberty, the private ownership of property, and governmental responsibility abridged to the functions of maintaining peace, without a formal name. i, too, have worried over this problem and have come to the conclusion that, at this time, no solution may be the best solution.

By becoming obsessed with the notion that we “need” a label, we in effect have admitted that our philosophy is deficient and that, without a moniker, our opinions are left undefended and exposed to contrary suppositions which will strip naked our ideas and leave them wounded and dying on the road to intellectual purgatory; as if a popular name is the only weapon able to resist the force of argument.

I do not think, however, that this is true. The tenets of classical liberalism and free market economics are the strongest, most viable alternatives for the betterment of human society ever propounded. The problem lies primarily in this illusion of weakness—the belief that our ideas are not as powerful as tools of debate as those of the opposition.

So I offer here a temporary remedy to our dilemma. We should, each of us, school ourselves in the philosophy of freedom, so that we can defend and explicate our view in ways that reveal their innate cogency. To borrow from the fundamental principles of Austrian economics, we must manufacture a product that is so consistent with human wants that people demand it above all others. Let us not despair at the glib catchwords, slogans, and epithets of our opponents’ rhetoric, but strengthen our own defense with the strongest offense—reason. For in reason there is wisdom, and in wisdom, truth.

In time, I believe we will recover the proper name and definition of “liberalism,” but only when, by our thoughts and actions, we deserve that prize.

Carl Helstrom

Mugged by Reality

“The very high level of progressive taxation just doesn’t work.”

—Kjell Olof Feldt,

Sweden’s Finance Minister,

who has proposed a major tax             overhaul.

(The New York Times, May 12, 1987)

  • The Reverend Dr. John K. Williams has been a teacher and is a free-lance writer and lecturer in North Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. He was resident scholar at FEE from April to October of this year.