Hong Kong Umbrella Revolution, From Democracy to Creativity

Hong Kong Umbrella Revolution, From Democracy to Creativity

The recent social unrest in Hong Kong has sparked a range of discourse from the obvious – e.g., democracy, universal suffrage, overheated real estate market, to the less obvious – e.g., creativity of the people in Mainland China. This begs the question of whether creativity is a function of democracy. Is a democratic government an enabler of individual-level creativity? Do not forget most democratic governments reside in the West which also boast largely individualistic individuals, except India which claims to be the world’s largest democracy, but are Indians creative?







Louis Daily's picture Louis Daily | November 6, 2014 7:33 pm MST

If Indians are so smart then where are the Indian Googles, Ipads and Viagras? http://www.forbes.com/sites/mattsymonds/2012/07/12/if-indians-are-so-smart-then-where-are-the-indian-googles-ipads-and-viagras/   At least one author has pondered a similar question about China.  http://www.creativetransformations.asia/2013/06/are-chinese-people-less-creative-than-people-in-the-free-world/    Both of these compelling articles seem to admit the need for a change in the business climate, but they also find current creativity in these cultures, although expressed differently and perhaps less dramatically than in the U.S.   Of course, in September, 2014, the Chinese company Alibaba became the biggest IPO ever, so we might have to concede that Jack Ma is creative and Chinese.   Frequently a leitmotif exists when U.S. critics diminish the accomplishments of newly emerged economies:  they might be industrious and good at copying the west but they display a lack of innovation which can only be fostered under a laissez faire capitalistic system.   India and certainly China do not possess enough economic freedom to produce an Edison or Jobs or Gates.   The lesson for Americans is that deregulation, low taxes and privatization are the only paths to economic success as well as “freedom” (The Scandinavian welfare states are so enslaving).  The problem with this point of view is that it is entirely obvious that innovation does not need laissez faire capitalism.  In fact it does not need capitalism.   Capitalism is two hundred years old or so? To be sure, it has produced an incredible explosion of consumer and capital goods and radically transformed the landscape.   Edison’s inventions alone illustrate the profound creativity of the era.  But invention and innovation have been part of the human experience from the earliest days of civilization.  I will resist the temptation to go through the whole list, but we might mention the wheel, alphabet, zero, Chinese printing press, gunpowder--all developed under autocratic regimes, which is all there was at the time.   We can vigorously oppose it on other grounds, but tyrannical government failed to stifle human creativity and genius.   Do not get me wrong, I am a major fan of Democracy and Capitalism.  Certainly the revolutions of modern times have released creative energy.  But it just might be that we do not need Reaganomics to succeed.   And would not a few more mortgage regulations have helped out in the years leading up to the financial crisis?  A better explanation exists for the lack of Googles, Ipads, and Viagras in India and China—they are new, recently emerged economies.  Give them a chance.   Colonialism was never good for creativity. Giving due respect to the work ethic and spirit of the American people, there is a better explanation for the emergence of the U.S. as a superpower and super-economy than the philosophy of the Gilded Age—it is a nation incredibly rich in natural resources guarded by two gigantic oceans.  Human creativity is persistent enough to have survived even in the worst totalitarian countries in recent history.  Yes the Indians are creative.  Yes, the Chinese are creative-- and coming on,  Communist or laissez faire.  So let us get to work with optimism, even with a regulated mortgage industry and Dodd-Frank.   We do not want to hear a Beijing businessman in 2030 exclaim:  “If the Americans are so smart, where are the Alibabas?”

Fiona Sussan's picture Fiona Sussan | November 12, 2014 5:09 pm MST

okay, if democracy is not directly related to creativity, then Is creativity related to economic growth?

Louis Daily's picture Louis Daily | November 20, 2014 8:16 pm MST

Creativity certainly is a spur to economic growth. The improved loom and steam engine inaugurated the Industrial Revolution and transformed England into a gargantuan empire.  Nineteenth century capitalism in the U.S. may have been brutal on the worker, but Rockefeller, Carnegie, Vanderbilt and Morgan (building on the inventions of Edison, Tesla, Bessemer, etc.) certainly put on displays of innovation that provided the infrastructure for the future superpower.  There are many other examples.  Democracy is not a pre-requisite for economic growth or no empire would ever have gotten off the ground, but the events in England and the U.S. certainly may have been related to property and patent rights found in economies with democratic elements.    

Fiona Sussan's picture Fiona Sussan | November 20, 2014 8:41 pm MST

(but Rockefeller, Carnegie, Vanderbilt and Morgan (building on the inventions of Edison, Tesla, Bessemer, etc.) ah, these are smart people who took the inventions to the market! That begs the question of creativity itself does not necessary lead to economic growth, its the "business minds" that bring about economic growth. Also, the economic growth of the British Empire you mentioned largely relied on exrtacting value from the colonies - the famous trading companies. Makes one wonder how many patent owners actually reap the profit or its the "business minds" that add economic value to it!