Capitalism, the Real Engine of Change

By January 13, 2008Economy, Technology

From the best columnist around, Mark Steyn.

This past week’s issue of The Economist has a heart-rending vignette from one of the most ruthlessly capitalist industries on the planet: “In 2006 EMI, the world’s fourth-biggest recorded-music company, invited some teenagers into its headquarters in London to talk to its top managers about their listening habits. At the end of the session the EMI bosses thanked them for their comments and told them to help themselves to a big pile of CDs sitting on a table. But none of the teens took any of the CDs, even though they were free.”

”That was the moment we realized the game was completely up,” an EMI exec told the magazine. In the United States, album sales in 2007 were down 19 percent from 2006. Don’t blame me. I still buy plenty of CDs. But that’s because I like Doris Day, and every time I try to insert one of these newfangled MP3s into my fax machine it doesn’t seem to play. But if you’re not Mister Squaresville, and you dig whatever caterwauling beat combo those London hep cats are digging on their iPods, chances are you find the local record store about as groovy as the Elks Lodge.

Now there are generally two reactions to the above story. If you’re like me, you’re reminded yet again why you love capitalism. It’s dynamic. And the more capitalist your economy, the more dynamic it is. Every great success story is vulnerable to the next great success story — which is why teenagers aren’t picking their CDs from the Sears-Roebuck catalog. There’s a word for this. Now let me see. What was it again?

Oh, yeah: “change.” Innovation drives change, the market drives change. Government “change” just drives things away: You could ask many of the New Hampshire primary voters who formerly resided in Massachusetts.

Well, this is where we put in a plug for Ranch Records in McMinnville, Oregon. Otherwise, point taken. (The Economist story is here.)

BTW, an arm of the Canadian government is investigating Steyn for excerpts from his recent book published in MacLeans.

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