Innovation is Offensive

The next time I want to offend someone, I guess I will bring a box of chalk.  If I think about my post of a couple of weeks ago niche/movement/mainstream, this is a niche that society must nip in the bud.   If you didn’t know the offense, students at Emory University in Atlanta were damaged psychologically because when they walked down the sidewalk, they saw a “Trump 2016” scrawled on it in chalk. Oh the horror!

This sort of attitude sweeping through college campuses needs to be nipped in the bud for reasons other than might be readily apparent.

At Wesleyan, students want to defund the school newspaper and are advocating censorship.  At Missouri, students rioted and the President resigned.  There are other recent examples.   Huffington Post wrote an article about it back in 2010.  People are no longer tolerant.

I never thought I would see the day when Monty Python might make some sense.  The comedy troupe did a sketch on a military officer instructing recruits on how to defend themselves from the dangers of fresh fruit.  I’d love to see the same bunch take on the ravages of chalk and a different opinion.

If the Emory students were at all creative, they would have gotten some water and poured it on the “T”.

That brings me to my point.  Creative destruction and innovation is going to be offensive to someone somewhere.  Innovation is outside the norm.  It doesn’t fit in the regular constraints.

If today’s generation making their way through colleges aren’t tolerant, they aren’t going to be open to innovation either.

You think people thought Steve Jobs was some great guy?  Most people thought he was a total asshole.  Silicon Valley scion and Intel stalwart Andy Grove died the other day.  Do you know what he was famous for?  Confrontational management.  Employees vented their anger at each other to make innovative breakthroughs and get shit done.

I am not advocating that every interaction has to be confrontational.  But, instead of trying to cocoon yourself and shut down the world, it’s better to open yourself to what could be.  If you only discover new ideas inside an echo chamber, you aren’t really discovering anything new that can scale.

If you find a reasoned article against Black Lives Matter offensive or jumping out of your skin at a chalk written phrase on a sidewalk all demean the things that people did before our time to secure the basic human rights of free speech, life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  You are not going to go very far in life on your own.

One of the benefits of my own life was living in Chicago.  Chicago is a brass knuckles Democratic machine town.  It’s a place where Bill Ayers is seen as a hero and President Reagan is seen as a pariah.  I know people here are not tolerant of my beliefs and actively discriminate against people like me.  But on the flip side, living in a place like this has forced me to open up my mind to lots of beliefs.

It allows me to think seriously about a concept like basic income, or Obamacare and not dismiss it out of hand.  Being tolerant means that you have the empathy for the other person’s position-but you might not agree.  I can see my way clear to have something like basic income or health care for everyone in the US.  But, I certainly don’t think it should be a government program.  I’d set it up using the principles of positive classical economics and because of my life experiences I know it would work.

As students and professors learn at the University of Chicago, it’s the smashing ideas together in vigorous, but empathetic, debate which creates the truly great innovative ideas.  Those ideas bring society forward.  Here is an example of that with two professors discussing the pay gap as it relates to gender.

Our helicopter parenting, our focus on totally controlling and insulating our children from harm has caused them to close up their own worlds.  Dissent isn’t tolerated and it is severely punished.  The immediate reaction is to run to an authority figure and play the victim card.

Innovators and creative thinkers stand up to authority and never ever play the victim card.


  • JLM

    There is no Second Amendment protection for chalk.

    Let’s ban that shit. Now.

    We are becoming a nation of pussies.


  • Tony


    Enjoyed the note. You are right about innovation and taking the risk of “offending” someone. Innovators never play the victim card.

  • Dylan Cornelius

    The above article seems to point to a future where the millenials, our next large demographic (often formerly described as our next big economic savior), may actually kill innovation and industrial development for a generation. Where the baby boomers brought us financial engineering and economic mayhem, will the millenials bring us a generation of dark ages-style suppression of intellectual and social inquiry…some sort of extreme mix of fundamentalist intolerance and McCarthyist oppression? Is a cultural revolution far beyond? People accept innovation when leaders help them see what’s in it for them. What are the values we can draw upon, and who are the leaders, that can help us chart a more constructive path forward?

    • Jeff Carter

      Is all financial engineering offensive and destructive? I don’t think so. It’s helped manage risk in niches that couldn’t ever done it. It’s decreased costs to do things. It’s allowed more people to access capital. It’s created new ways to make investment in markets more accessible to more people.

      I think there are certain things that went to excess, like the CDO market in 2008. But was that the result of financial innovation or poor government policy that set up poor economic incentives?