211 – Escape the Zero Sum Spiral

Solutions to society’s problems require innovation in order to escape the spiral of a seemingly zero-sum game. Necessity is the mother of invention, but that means we need to be allowed to be in need as well as be allowed to invent. If necessities are always provided then invention’s mother is dead. If invention requires permission from whatever bureaucracy is central, then necessity’s child has been kidnapped.

Being in need carries with it a sense of danger. What if I don’t earn money? Will I end up on the street? The need to survive and the healthy sense of urgency to work was given to us by God—the same God who makes sure to provide for us.

Even in poor countries where poverty is widespread, the problem is not as simple as having a giant Santa Clause shower everyone with food. People need education, government needs internal compliance, and society as a whole must study the work of responsibly maintaining lists. It also helps to prevent wicked men from using ultra-powerful companies to cripple natural resources, but these are all issues separate from the value of a “healthy sense of urgency” that drives us to live productive lives.

Unless we live lives that produce more prosperity than we consume, we won’t be able to help those in need. And, as much as others need food, they also need the permission to have some “healthy need”—at least enough need to foster invention. Never provide people with so many of their basic needs that the “provision” sanitizes the urgency to invent.

Invention, innovation, new ideas, responding to a personal urgent need to adapt yesterday’s resources to the problems that didn’t sprout until this morning—entrepreneurial ingenuity is the only answer to the problem of not having enough wealth to go around. That ingenuity needs an appetite, a little hunger, some desire for more. Sometimes our “healthy sense of urgency” comes from fear of becoming homeless, other times it comes from the strictly-enforced habit of making every day better than the day before.

Once your inner inventor awakens, people will rise up just to cooperate because the mere act of inventing extinguishes the poverty around us.