Creative Destruction Or Destructive Creation?

One theme for my APUSH History Class this year is the impact of new inventions/technology on society. In this case, students analyzed the impact of technologies through Joseph Schumpeter’s notion of creative destruction. Their task was to argue over whether the new invention/technology is a net positive or negative for society. --Dr. Chuck Greanoff, LHS Social Studies Teacher

By Leah Campbell, LHS Class of ‘24

Butter churners, canals, telegraphs, typewriters, polaroid cameras, and horse-drawn carriages are antiquated and obsolete today. But all so quant! They have been replaced by factories, cargo trains, semi-trucks, smartphones, and cars. This is because a factory can produce butter much faster and with less waste than a household butter churner ever could. This concept is defined by economist Joseph Schumpeter as creative destruction; the cycle of old inventions or concepts being replaced by newer and more effective inventions. 

Social media’s recent dominance over news is a current example of creative destruction. Many people would rather hear about current events through “trusted” friends on social media than mysterious reporters. This has reduced reliance on newspapers and longstanding news sources for information on current events. Social media has made the spread of news faster than it has ever been before. Unfortunately, many people are wrong to trust their friends’ posts on current events which leads to misinformation. According to NPR, “More than 40 percent of visits to 65 fake news sites come from social media, compared to around 10 percent of visits to 690 top US news sites” (https://www.npr.org/2018/04/11/601323233/6-facts-we-know-about-fake-news-in-the-2016-election) This abundance of misinformation leads to distrust of the media and the government agencies that collaborate with the media. While news on social media is incredibly convenient, it is a net negative for society because it’s largely responsible for the publicity of false information, biased news sources and distrust of the government. Trustworthy news sources and a trusted government are more valuable to society than convenient news will ever be.

Overall, social media’s dominance of the news is a destructive creation. While it has proven to spread news quickly, it has made traditional news sources, like newspapers, significantly less popular. In addition to this, televised news is also much less prevalent than it was before social media had such large influence over news. In 2018, newspapers were at their lowest rate of circulation since 1940, and the percentage of Americans who frequently watched televised news fell 7% between 2016 and 2018. Social media’s new prevalence as a news outlet has also destroyed trust in longstanding news organizations and government agencies. (https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/02/14/fast-facts-about-the-newspaper-industrys-financial-struggles/ https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/01/05/fewer-americans-rely-on-tv-news-what-type-they-watch-varies-by-who-they-are) All in all, social media’s recent control of news is on track to destroy two industries and break trust which makes it a destructive creation.

Just as factories replaced butter churners, social media is solidly on track to replace newspapers and televised news. Both are examples of creative destruction, the process of inventions being replaced by newer and more effective ones. Creative destruction is a key factor for human advancement. It will be present as long as the human race continues to be prosperous.

Chuck Greanoff

LHS graduate, 1977. Teach History and Psychology at LHS. Leah Campbell, LS '24

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Volume 17, Issue 1, Posted 12:59 PM, 01.06.2021