The Significance of the Frisbee

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Feb 22, 2010    •    759 Views

Last week, just after listening to the Schumpeter lecture from Dr. Timothy Taylor in a (very good) Teaching Company course on the history of economic thought, I read in the N.Y. Times that the inventor of the Frisbee had died. Joseph Schumpeter focused on the role of the entrepreneur within the evolution of capitalism. Fred Morrison, the inventor of the Frisbee was an entrepreneur.
Morrison called his innovation the Pluto Platter and sold it at toy fairs. In 1957, when toymaker Wham-O was looking for a new generation of toys beyond the doll and toy soldier, they decided that Morrison’s flying disc seemed to be what they were looking for. Reminiscent of a flying saucer, inexpensive, a family type of toy, the Pluto Platter just needed a new name. Wham-O called it the Frisbee because it reminded them of a New England Frisbie pie.
Schumpeter said that entrepreneurs propelled capitalism through creative destruction. New ideas destroyed the status quo but led to economic growth. The auto killed the buggy whip. The transistor replaced the vacuum tube. I am not sure what the Frisbee replaced.

The Economic Life
In Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy (1942), Joseph Schumpeter (1883-1950) explained what propelled capitalism and what would destroy it. Entrepreneurs sparked capitalism’s ability to grow and provide better standards of living. Ultimately though, Schumpeter predicted capitalism would die because an affluent intellectual class would emerge that challenged its existence.
Interesting: Joseph Schumpeter and John Maynard Keynes were born during the same year that Karl Marx died.

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