An ex-colonel of the British army once said to me that there is nothing more effective at stimulating an economy than war. I am sure he is
right. Faced with death, people move faster, work harder, talk more, and come
closer together. You might stumble across an oil well or a treasure chest but if you are not united... War or fighting to the death is an “end game” where the aim is
to wipe out the adversary, but any kind of dispute, debate or controversy that
comes close to igniting that kind of energy without actually producing
violence, can only be good for an economy.
It is my belief that as long as our broader social order enabled value creation through self-interested transactions, without more concern for our fellow humans, we will always be in danger of falling victim to the types of "opportunities" that Schumpeter suggests (as Keith mentions above). Until more people begin challenging the economic foundations of capitalism, the belief that it is in our nature to "Truck. Barter, Exchange", and sometimes even wage war, will continue to predominate. The market will always be positioned to threaten the mutuality upon which it rests (see Stephen Gudeman). But I wouldn't under-estimate the power of the internet as a space for debate and as an arena for collective action to mobilise. A little off subject but closer to my home is the campaign against the American owners of Manchester United. The football fans see a their beloved social institution being undermined by greedy capitalists whose highly leveraged buyout saddled their club/company with debt. The American owners see a pound sign (or maybe a dollar sign?). The 'Green and Gold' campaign all began from a fansite called RedIssue and has resulted in several mass protests and displays of agency that one could argue harm the commercial interests of the owners. The battle is on-going. Nevertheless, it is interesting that over a hundred-thousand people chose to react instantly when they saw their football club as under threat but remain socially inert on larger matters - I wonder how many of those 100,000+ voted to elect the leader of their country. I think a lot of this stems from economic literacy (or illiteracy). I personally was not taught anything about capitalism or economics in school. Given that we live in a 'market society', I find this quite alarming (although it does suit with the most assests to maintain the status quo). In fact, it wasn't until I took investment management exams (after graduating) that I even learned the difference between micro and macro economics! I do see a lot of value in web-based discussion such as this and much of it can filter through to face-to-face conversations with others - my friends and family all seem very interested in my postgrad studies in anthropology. People just do not seem aware. So I say let us keep talking to each other and to others. Who knows, there may be enough of us one day to make a real stir where it matters - in a non-violent way of course!