Creatively destroying the Traditional Opposition

Here’s a train of thought I’ve been mulling since I started studying Innovation Economics (sometimes called Neoschumpeterian Economics.)

The basic insight in this field is that innovations disrupt markets. When a superior technology hits the market, firms selling older technologies either adapt or die. When the DVD comes onto the market, firms manufacturing VHS tapes either invest in machinery and know-how to produce DVDs, or decline until they’re out of business.

Schumpeter called this process “creative destruction” – because the old VHS industry is destroyed in the process. Neoschumpeterians see creative destruction as the basic mechanism that underpins economic progress.

I think we can interpret Venezuelan politics – and more specifically Venezuelan political communications – by analogy. Chavez’s rhetoric is the DVD here, AD/Copei style rhetoric is the VHS.

Chavez’s political communications include a series of innovations that disrupted the political market. He spoke to normal people, in language that normal people can understand, about topics that normal people care about, in a style that normal people identify with. In 1998, this was a total novelty in Venezuela.

Since then, the Opposition has been trying to compete with Chavez using an outdated, no-longer appropriate rhetorical technology. For the last seven years, the Opposition has kept talking to the elite, in language only the elite can understand, about topics only the elite cares about, in a style that only the elite identifies with.

Seven years on, the Traditional Opposition is still cranking out VHS tapes and wondering why people refuse to buy them.

One way to think about December 4th is as the date when Venezuela’s producers of political VHS tapes finally go out of business. They might have adapted and survived, but they didn’t, so they won’t.

Is this a bad thing? I don’t think so. Eventually, we’ll need a New Opposition that understands the new conditions in the political market. An Opposition that unabashedly copies the innovative features of Chavez’s rhetoric, that uses language normal people can understand, touches on topics normal people care about, and does it in a style they can identify with.

Actually, given the Traditional Opposition’s manifest inability to adapt, I’d say they’re just getting in the way at this point. On December 4th, they’ll be creatively destroyed…and then, maybe, our side will realize that nobody wants political VHS tapes any more, and somebody will start cranking out anti-Chavez DVDs.

Regular readers know exactly who I have in mind here…