Common Innovation
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Common Innovation

How We Create the Wealth of Nations

G. M.P. Swann

Common innovation is the contribution of ordinary people to innovation and the wealth of nations. Innovation and wealth creation are not merely the monopoly of business. While Schumpeter described business innovation as a, ‘perennial gale of creative destruction’, common innovation is more a, ‘gentle and benign breeze’. This book analyses some illustrations of the destructive side of business innovation, and provides numerous examples of the ‘benign breeze’ of common innovation. It builds on the pioneering work of von Hippel, but takes that a step further. In common innovation, the ordinary citizen is centre stage and business can be quite peripheral
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Chapter 12: Innovation and Consumerism

G. M.P. Swann


Some politicians think it quite inappropriate that Church men and women – even the most senior Churchman in Britain – should ‘interfere’ in politics and the economy. I have never understood this point of view. After all, few politicians are shy to give their opinion on anything and everything – including many things that they are quite evidently unqualified to speak about. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury from 2003–2012, is not the first Archbishop or Bishop of modern times to speak out against what he considers to be a fundamental error in our political economy.1 Moreover, as I have argued above, the relevant concept of wealth for our purposes is not M-wealth but R-wealth (‘no wealth but life’). Who could be better qualified to talk about the relationship between innovation and life? By chance, my work on this chapter coincided with the publication of Dr Williams’ book, Faith in the Public Square (2012), once described as his ‘valedictory work as Archbishop’ (Guardian, 2012b). In this he sets out some very deep concerns about our current political economy, and these seem to me so important that I decided they must be addressed here. In the context of this book, this chapter describes the potentially destructive effects of innovation on the consumer as a person – as a human being.

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