After 131 years in business, Eastman Kodak is on the brink of filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Should we consider this good news or bad news in light of the gospel? In general, this is good news with a cautionary note.
The process of creative destruction is fundamentally good for carrying out the creation mandate of making the world useful to people. It was a marvel a century ago to have any type of photograph, color photography was a dynamic innovation, and the Instamatic camera made photography available to the masses. These were clearly good developments for Eastman Kodak and for society (think parents of babies, etc.). Engineers at Kodak also invented the digital camera…
Gentle reader (depending on your age) do you miss waiting several days to have your film developed? Sometimes I had Christmas pictures on a partially filled roll of 35mm film for months afterwards. Though one-hour photo developing was a breakthrough, I am confident that no one misses ambling around a mall for an hour waiting for prints. Does anyone even use a digital camera now that a smart phone includes a eight megapixel camera, video camera, calendar, contact list, and Angry Birds for the extra hour?
It is fundamentally good when innovation destroys the markets for otherwise useful products, as this lowers prices and improves quality for consumers. Yet we should be cautioned against unbounded rejoicing because this bankruptcy filing will be disruptive to the lives of the 19,000 employees (and families) of Eastman Kodak. It is appropriate for governments to provide temporary unemployment insurance for such people, and it is commendable for churches to provide relief in practical ways.
The intersection of economics and the gospel occurs at this point: while the economy benefits from innovation leading to creative destruction, the impact on human beings needs to be mitigated by merciful local churches and limited local government.