Creativity Is The True Source of Economic Wealth

Libro — The Creative Wealth of Nations - Andres Valenciano - Medium
Cambridge University Press, 2018.  Hardback, Softback 330 pages, and Kindle

June 26, 2020

Creativity Is the True Source of Economic Wealth

Lawrence Freeman

(I promised Patrick Kabanda over a year ago I would write a review of his book, “The Creative Wealth of Nations: Can the Arts Advance Development?” and I always keep my word.) 

With his book, Patrick Kabanda makes a significant contribution to examining the subject of economics with a new and refreshing approach. Rather than being stuck in a maze measuring monetary values, he looks beyond the financial structure of prices and export-import figures, to the relationship of the human mind to economics. While I do not agree with everything in this book, its principal value to me is that it elevates the discussion of the importance of creativity in economics. The title of Mr. Kabanda’s book caught my eye, because it provocatively alters the title of Adam Smith’s well known, wicked book, “The Wealth of Nations.” Contrary to what is commonly accepted by the majority of my fellow citizens, and what is taught in our institutions of learning, the United States was not founded on the tenets of Adam Smith. In fact, no economy ever was, or ever could be successful by following Smith’s canons.  President George Washington and his brilliant Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, rejected Smith’s doctrines, as did every follower of the American System of Political Economy, including many American Presidents and foreign leaders. (Read Alexander Hamilton’s Credit System Is Necessary for Africa’s Development)

 While it is useful that Kabanda calls attention to the function of culture (art, music, drama) in contributing to economic progress, he errs in properly pinpointing the relationship. It is not culture per se that contributes to economic progress, but rather only a culture that fosters and nourishes human creativity. More precisely, it is those compositions of art, music, and drama, which stimulate creative thinking, an aptitude uniquely bequeathed to the human species, that we should revere. It is this potential for creative thought that makes us truly human, which society’s culture should cherish and nourish.

 Creativity in Economics

Machinists set up and operate a variety of computer-controlled and mechanically-controlled machine tools to produce precision metal parts, instruments, and tools.

Before proceeding with my review, it is necessary to discuss the genuine role of creativity in the science of economics. Improving the conditions of life for an expanding population is not based on money. To understand real economic growth, it is important to comprehend that it is physical (not monetary) inputs injected into an economy that yield improvements in the productive powers of society, which causes an increase in aggregate of wealth.  It should be evident that the augmented capacity of a nation to ensure a prosperous future for those living and their posterity is not the result of the silly creeds of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand.”

Putting aside cult like beliefs in monetarism, let us focus on crucial aspect of physical economy. In the broadest yet most accurate terms, economics is humankind’s relationship to the physical universe. Humans act creatively to transform nature lawfully for the perpetuation of our noble species.  Natural resources are not the ultimate source of value. It is true that human labor adds value to resources in the production process.  Thoughtful economists recognize that the productivity of farmers and workers depends on the quality and quantity of infrastructure available to society. However, the crucial concept for our purpose here is the following. Discovery and utilization of resources, productivity of human labor power, and the level of infrastructure for any given economy, are all delimited by the level of existing scientific and technological culture accessible by the population. Improved productivity emanates from the invention of new designs for machines that enable work to be performed more efficiently.  The application of advanced technologies is derived from discoveries of new scientific principles by the noetic process of the human mind.

Let us examine energy from a higher conceptual standpoint. On the simplest level, oil has existed for millions of years. However, it only became a valuable resource to humans when a technology was invented to utilize oil for energy, which became the dominant fuel to power the twentieth century. The attainment of electricity was made possible by a human scientific discovery of electromagnetism. It was the scientist, William Gilbert, whose publication of the “de Magnete” in 1600 that began the process of understanding the correlation of electromagnetism and earth’s magnetic field.

All energy is not equal. Energy is measured by energy-flux density, that is the ability of that energy source to achieve higher concentrations of heat available to perform work.  With that criteria in mind, we can assert with scientific certainty that nuclear fission is the most powerful form of energy we have today. Africa would be well served, if there were hundreds of 1,000 megawatt or modulars of two to four 200 megawatt nuclear power plants dotting its landscape. To achieve nuclear fusion, whose energy flux-density would far exceed fission, requires additional scientific breakthroughs to fuse hydrogen isotopes at temperatures hotter than the Sun. In tragic comparison, large parts of Africa still rely on burning wood and biomass. Not only is this practice primitive, environmentally unsound, but it utilizes energy at the lowest flux density.

Nuclear fission, which has the greatest energy flux density, making it the most powerful energy source, until nuclear fusion energy is developed.

All machines and integrated infrastructure platforms incorporate in their design, principles of scientific   knowledge of the universe relative to that historical period. The greater the density of machine-infrastructure capital in an economy engenders a more productive and educated labor force. The effects of manufacturing, and railroads on the productivity, and level of knowledge in society are brilliantly discussed by Alexander Hamilton in his “Report on Manufacturers” (1791), and Friedrich List in his “The National System of Political Economy” (1841).  Both authors, who identify humankind’s mental powers as a source of economic wealth, should be studied by every competent economists and statesman.

Without going beyond the scope of this article, the history of civilization’s progress can be measured by the increase of total energy throughput and energy flux-density, which is made possible by technologies that encompass new scientific principles. It is the profound ability of the human mind to continuously discover higher principles embedded in the physical universe, which lifts humankind from one plateau of economic activity to the next superior one. Civilizational progress emanates from the human mind, not nature per se.  Even from the few paragraphs above, it is discernible that the source of economic wealth is the metaphysical, non-material creative imagination, not some corporeal “thing” that you can see, smell or touch.  These apparently intangible ideas that spring from the brow of our “mind-soul” have greater force than bodily-physical objects. This conception has profound epistemological implications in economic theory. More can be said about physical economics and how societies develop, but that will have to wait for another time.

Culture and Imagination

Returning to our review, Mr. Kabanda’s book highlights the role of the contribution of culture and creativity to economic development, and contains many useful insights. In his opening chapter entitled, “Overture,” he discusses “the arts ability to emancipate and foster human imagination.” (p. 3) In chapter two, “Arts in Education,” he writes: “…since the arts embody creativity and innovation, they have a major role to play in fostering knowledge for development.” (p. 44) Quoting Theodore Schultz, “advances in knowledge are a decisive factor in economic progress. The increases in the quality of both physical and human capital originate primarily out of the advances in knowledge.” (p. 48) Kabanda quotes cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who advocates changing the curriculum of science, technology engineering and math-STEM to STEAM by adding the arts. (p. 53) Renaissance-man, Leonardo De Vinci is also mentioned for his search “to know what we don’t know” originally espoused by Socrates 2,000 years earlier. (p. 26)

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma said he’s often asked how he keeps his repertoire fresh, even after playing a piece hundreds of times. “I play as if it were the last time I will play that piece,” he said. Photo by Eric Bronson, Michigan Photography.

He includes the creative hypotheses by the towering scientist-astronomer, Johannes Kepler, who unknown to the majority of our society, hypothesized that the ordering of the solar system was derived from musical harmonies. (p. 53) Kepler’s great astronomical discovery of gravity and the spacing of the orbits of the planets is presented in his book, “The Harmony of the World” (1619).

In the book’s final chapter “Imagination and Choice,” Kabanda underscores an essential conception to understanding economic progress.

“Now when the people began to search for the wisdom behind progress, in the end it was not whether development came first and then the arts followed. Or some sort of miraculous statistical formula. Much of it was imagination in thought and deed. Imagination was the future, and the future was imagination. It was [and is] the cradle of civilization…this finale is a call to imagine the future we need.” (p. 221 emphasis added)

 Kabanda points to the personality of Albert Einstein to demonstrate the unity of science and imagination. Einstein was known to resort to taking up his violin to kindle his imagination to explore scientific hypothesis. He quotes Einstein: “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” (p. 223).

All great art and scientific discoveries first emerge in the creative imagination. A true leader, a statesman, also relies on his or her creative-imagination. When he or she implements policies in the present they ought to be derived from a vision of what the future should look like seen through the mind’s eye.

Axiomatic Flaws

Despite many useful and challenging ideas presented in “The Creative Wealth of Nations” there are flaws in sections of Kabanda’s thesis. However, to be fair, these shortcomings are unfortunately endemic to our corroded culture.

Not all cultures i.e. music and art are good for society. Applying the criteria, which we developed above, we should rightly ask; does a particular culture nurture the creative powers of the mind? For example, the rock-drug counterculture ushered into the West in the 1960s was destructive, and its damaging effects still linger in today’s baby-boomer generation. Music is not good because it is music, or art because it is art. Todays’ music is in large part debasing and degrading to the human mind. Profits made from the music industry do not add value to the economy if their music assaults our soul-mind and undermines our creative capacity.

On a deeper level, Kabanda errs in Chapter 3, “The Arts and Environmental Stewardship,” when he writes: “The arts have long had a sense of stewardship towards protecting the environment and mitigating climatic change.” (p. 72) Contrary to present day popular culture, mankind’s relationship to the physical universe is much more than being a steward or custodian. Human beings lawfully transform the physical environment. Consider the injunction given to mankind in Genesis 27: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

Humankind is not meant to be a just a caretaker, but has dominion and the power to subdue. The universe is organized to respond to willful human cognition, transforming the biosphere into the nooespshere, according to Russian scientist, Vladimir Vernadsky. Humankind with the unique power of creative mentation, was not put on this planet to act as a glorified groundskeeper. When we exercise our creative potential, we humans are the most powerful living force in the universe.

Scientist Albert Einstein with his violin

Accepting the axioms of Adams Smith’s notions about economy and society leads us down the wrong path. Kabanda alludes to Smith’s “Theory of Moral Sentiments favorably as he does with his Wealth of Nations” (p. 49) It is in the “Theory of Moral Sentiments” that Smith presents his most hedonistic description of human nature, reducing humankind to being governed by animalistic instincts, rather than human creativity. Quoting Smith:

“The administration of the great system of the universe … the care of the universal happiness of rational and sensible beings, is the business of God and not of man. To man is allotted a much humbler department, but one much more suitable to the weakness of his powers, and to the narrowness of his comprehension, they are of his own happiness, of that of his family, his friends, his country…. Nature has directed us to the greater part of these by original and immediate instincts. Hunger, thirst, the passion which unites the sexes, the love of pleasure, and the dread of pain, prompt us to apply those means for their own sakes, and without any considerations of their tendency to those beneficent ends which the great Director of nature intended to produce by them.”

Smith’s economic assumptions flow from his degraded, amoral conception of human beings as mere creatures of pleasure and pain. For that reason alone, we know his dogma could never be a successful prescription for how an economy develops. At its core, Smith’s doctrine is antithetical to the lawful relationship between humankind and the physical universe.

Let the Discussion Begin

Kabanda deserves a great deal of praise and credit for focusing our attention on the relationship of culture, and creativity to economics. His endeavor is far more relevant to our economic well-being than the trillions of dollars gambled on the gyrations of the stock market. For civilizations to continue to exist, society’s culture must unceasingly produce creative individuals. If we want a more prosperous and stable world for our children and their children, then we need citizens from all nations to engage in a robust debate of the role of culture in our society. If this book helps spark such a discussion, then Kabanda’s contribution has served an invaluable function.

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

 

The World Needs Scientific and Cultural Optimism: President Trump Speaking In Davos Concurs

Brunelleschi’s Dome-1436, sits on top of Cathedral of Sainta Maria del Flore, in Florence Italy.

January 23, 2020

The excerpted portions below of President Trump’s address to the otherwise useless World Economic Forum in Davos, touch upon profound principles of culture, science, and political economy. The extremists in the mis-named environmentalist movement adhere to the Malthusian ideology; that an expanding human population would overwhelm the fixed resources of the planet. This false axiom of belief has been extended to the fraudulent notion that the growth of civilization itself will cause the destruction of our world. These extremists believe human beings are inherently evil, because of human nature’s inexorable devotion to progress.

President Trump’s reference to the construction of Brunelleschi’s Dome, that embodies the great Italian Renaissance, directly counters the pessimism that has infected large portions of Western culture. Our civilization has always progressed by realizing the fruits of creative labor. Through unique contributions by scientists and artists, society leaps forward and upward to new levels of evolution. The true underlying wellsprings of real-physical (non-monetary) economic growth are new scientific discoveries, and the capacity of society to apply them through advanced technologies. Our culture, if properly nurtured, should be a never ending font of discovery. Great creative artists stimulate our minds and souls, propelling society to new peaks of optimism and imagination.

One does not know, if President Trump is fully conscious of the implications of this exceptional portion of his presentation. However, we do know, that with his historical optimism, he challenged the prevailing anti-growth ideology espoused by the “green-billionaire” movement to halt the industrial development of our planet.  

I will be writing more on this subject-follow my blog.

Excerpts from the concluding section of President Trump’s speech in Davos Switzerland, January 21, 2020

This is not a time for pessimism; this is a time for optimism.  Fear and doubt is not a good thought process because this is a time for tremendous hope and joy and optimism and action.

But to embrace the possibilities of tomorrow, we must reject the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse.  They are the heirs of yesterday’s foolish fortune-tellers — and I have them and you have them, and we all have them, and they want to see us do badly, but we don’t let that happen.  They predicted an overpopulation crisis in the 1960s, mass starvation in the ’70s, and an end of oil in the 1990s.  These alarmists always demand the same thing: absolute power to dominate, transform, and control every aspect of our lives…

The great scientific breakthroughs of the 20th century — from penicillin, to high-yield wheat, to modern transportation, and breakthrough vaccines — have lifted living standards and saved billions of lives around the world.  And we’re continuing to work on things that you’ll be hearing about in the near future that, even today, sitting here right now, you wouldn’t believe it’s possible that we have found the answers.  You’ll be hearing about it.  But we have found answers to things that people said would not be possible — certainly not in a very short period of time.

But the wonders of the last century will pale in comparison to what today’s young innovators will achieve because they are doing things that nobody thought even feasible to begin.  We continue to embrace technology, not to shun it.  When people are free to innovate, millions will live longer, happier, healthier lives.

For three years now, America has shown the world that the path to a prosperous future begins with putting workers first, choosing growth, and freeing entrepreneurs to bring their dreams to life.

For anyone who doubts what is possible in the future, we need only look at the towering achievements of the past.  Only a few hundred miles from here are some of the great cities of Europe — teeming centers of commerce and culture.  Each of them is full of reminders of what human drive and imagination can achieve.

Centuries ago, at the time of the Renaissance, skilled craftsmen and laborers looked upwards and built the structures that still touch the human heart.  To this day, some of the greatest structures in the world have been built hundreds of years ago.

In Italy, the citizens once started construction on what would be a 140-year project, the Duomo of Florence.  An incredible, incredible place.  While the technology did not yet exist to complete their design, city fathers forged ahead anyway, certain that they would figure it out someday.  These citizens of Florence did not accept limits to their high aspirations and so the Great Dome was finally built.

In France, another century-long project continues to hold such a grip on our hearts and our souls that, even 800 years after its construction, when the Cathedral of Notre Dame was engulfed in flames last year — such a sad sight to watch; unbelievable site, especially for those of us that considered it one of the great, great monuments and representing so many different things — the whole world grieved.

Though her sanctuary now stands scorched and charred — and a sight that’s hard to believe; when you got used to it, to look at it now, hard to believe.  But we know that Notre Dame will be restored — will be restored magnificently.  The great bells will once again ring out for all to hear, giving glory to God and filling millions with wonder and awe.

The Cathedrals of Europe teach us to pursue big dreams, daring adventures, and unbridled ambitions.  They urge us to consider not only what we build today, but what we will endure long after we are gone.  They testify to the power of ordinary people to realize extraordinary achievements when united by a grand and noble purpose. (emphasis added)

United Nations Conference: The Lake Chad Basin Should not be ‘Managed’; it Should be ‘Transformed.’

August 19, 2019

United Nations Headquarters, August 5-6, 2019

On August 5-6, I had the opportunity to participate in the “Third International Conference on the Lake Chad Basin Region: SDG Implementation-UN System and Non-State Actors Exploring New ways of Cooperation.” The two-day conference at the United Nations Headquarters was hosted by the Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the United Nations, under the guidance of Dr. Ibrahim Umar. The assemblage was first addressed by ambassadors from three of the nations of the Lake Chad Basin; Permanent Representatives from the UN Missions of Chad, Niger and Nigeria.

Lawrence Freeman with Dr. Ibrahim Umar, Nigerian Mission to the United Nations

The convening of this UN session is in response to the worsening living conditions for approximately 30 million Africans living in the Lake Chad Basin, whose livelihood is centered around the shrinking Lake Chad. Today the estimated area of Lake Chad varies from 1200-1300 square kilometers to upwards of 2,000; a 90% contraction from its 1963 level of 25,000 square kilometers.  During the afternoon panel of the first day, the conditions of Lake Chad were addressed by Charles Ichoku, Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Howard University, and this author, who is Vice Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Lake Chad Basin Commission.

Transforming is Superior to Managing 

Dominating the conference were speakers representing NGOs and international organizations, who accurately depicted the extent of the horrific humanitarian, refugee, and food crises prevailing in the region in detail. Regrettably, there were those who accepted the diminutive size of Lake Chad as unalterable. Some of the participants offered short term solutions and others believed that the recharging of the lake is not an easy or viable option. However, they miss the point; that to comprehensively address the issue of the Lake Chad Basin will require nothing less than the full recharging of Lake Chad. It is only in this way that the humanitarian issues, poverty and underdevelopment can be tackled in the long run. In my presentation I challenged some of the pessimistic thinking in the conference by stating unequivocally: “None of the solutions that have been discussed will work, unless the lake is recharged.” It should be noted that United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, has pledged to collaborate with President Buhari of Nigeria, to raise the $50 billion necessary for the recharging of the lake.

Lawrence Freeman addressing the United Nations Conference on the Lake Chad Basin on the first day

My slide presentation demonstrated how the lake can be recharged to its previous level through Transaqua, an inter-basin water transfer project. Transaqua, designed in 1980 by Dr. Vichi of the Italian engineering firm, Bonifica, proposed to build a 2,400-kilometer canal created from 5-8% of the water in the Congo River Basin. The navigable gravity-driven canal would connect to the Chari River, in the Central Africa Republic, which releases its flow into Lake Chad. This bold innovative project is a “win-win” for the twelve nations of the Lake Chad and Congo River Basins, and for all of Africa. Responding to the necessity of recharging the shrinking Lake Chad, the project provides a unique opportunity to create a super economic “development zone” amongst the nations of the two basins. Trade, and commerce would increase by orders of magnitudes, hydroelectric power would be produced, millions of additional hectares would be irrigated, new roads created, new fisheries and manufacturing centers would be built. This author also presented to the audience the conclusions from the three-day International Conference to Save Lake Chad, held in Abuja Nigeria-February 26-28, 2018, at which the Heads of State from the nations of the Lake Chad Basin, endorsed Transaqua as the preferred method to expand the lake.

Both before and after my presentation numerous presenters spoke out against “big projects” and “diverting water” as if the Africans suffering in the region want the lake to remain at 10% of its previous level. International intervention and technology to alleviate the conditions in the basin were also eschewed in favor of local projects and listening to the so called “voice of the people.” Manage! Manage the existing deplorable conditions; don’t even dare think of changing-improving was echoed repeatedly.

On the second day, this author was compelled to speak out against the condescending attitude that assumes Africans do not want to enjoy the same standard of living as all the speakers from the US and Europe. I asked, if they thought that those people struggling for daily survival within the Lake Chad Basin wouldn’t desire clean running water, and having access to 1,500 watts of electricity 24 hours a day all year?

 

A slide presented by Mr. Freeman at the UN conference displaying the Transaqua inter-basin water transfer project

Underlying Cultural Beliefs About Mankind

Approximately five to six thousand years ago Lake Chad was a mega lake comprising 1,000,000 square kilometers. There are reports that several hundred years ago, Lake Chad almost disappeared. The lake sits on top of three aquifers and are adjacent to the gigantic Nubian Sandstone Aquifer.  Clearly the growth and shrinkage of the lake over millennia predates so called anthropomorphic caused climate change. Lake Chad is fed by river systems from Nigeria and Cameroon, the most significant contributor being the Chari River from the Central African Republic. With the southern movement of the Tropical Conversion Zone there is less rainfall thus reducing the flow of water into the lake. The closest source of water to refill and maintain Lake Chad is the super moist Congo River Basin, hundreds of kilometers south. A feasibility study should confirm the Transaqua hypothesis for the potential of a continuous flow of water into Lake Chad, resulting in transforming the entire region.

The failure to test and analyze the Transaqua proposal for almost four decades, even though many people were concerned about the worsening conditions resulting from the shrinking lake, leads us to examine a deeper cultural problem.

Over the last half century, Western societies have become victims of cultural pessimism. Our cultural paradigm has shifted away from one of optimism and confidence in human’s ability to discover new scientific principles that lead to technological revolutions for the betterment of humanity. In the years following the historic 1969 landing of humans on the Moon, inspired by the leadership of President John Kennedy, our culture has been dramatically altered for the worse. The previously discredited Malthusian dogma reasserted itself, with false assertions that if population growth was not stopped the planet would run out of resources. This was accompanied with hysterical calls for population reduction. Over time, as our culture became more decadent, the very progress of our society was assailed with attacks on science, technology, and industrialization.  In this new perverted ideology humankind, (made in the image of the Creator) became the devil-the source of evil itself in the world.

Ambassador Tijjani Muhammad Bande speaking at a reception hosted by the UN Nigerian Mission for the Lake Chad Basin conference

Contrary to declarations  that humans are destroying the environment, there is no such adversarial relationship. The physical universe is organized on the principle of continuous development and is predisposed to respond positively to the intervention of human creativity. Humankind is not just a caretaker or a steward. Humanity was created to interact with the universe for unending growth. Reflect on the biblical injunction in Genesis 1:28: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Yes, we can and must transform the Lake Chad Basin. We can end suffering, hunger, and poverty in that region, and across the African continent. That is what humankind was created to accomplish. Let us not reject our fundamental human essence: to willfully transform our planet (the universe) for the perpetuation of our uniquely creative species.

 

Distributed at the UN conference reported on above: UN Statement on Transaqua for Lake Chad

Distributed at the Abuja, Nigeria conference 2/26-28/2018:  Now Is the Time to Think Big and In the Future