A materialistic view of the economy sees it as a system of “things.” The economy churns on as “things” are bought and sold, made and distributed. This drives the output and input that we can measure, graph, and project to make predictions (with sporadic accuracy) that shape our economic interventions. The materialistic economy runs like a machine, driven by equilibrium and order, and it’s our job to keep it running smoothly and efficiently. In his Forbes article, Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry dubs this the “productivist” view.
In contrast, Gobry gives the “creativist” view: that the foundation of the economy is not production and consumption, but human creativity. This creativity can’t be measured, graphed, or projected–only emancipated. Properly understood, the creative economy runs on what George Gilder calls “entrepreneurial surprise”: new information that unexpectedly swings the system into disarray and disequilibrium.
In Knowledge and Power, Gilder names this insight–that the economy is about information, not incentives–as absolutely central to a true understanding of capitalism. Gilder’s capitalism isn’t powered by homo economicus responding to rewards and punishments, but by the creative being operating with freedom of choice.
Gobry says it’s the “most profound disagreement at the heart of economics”: is the economy a system of mind, or of matter? Of creative surprise or mechanistic determinism? Information or dust?