Are You Active, Inert or a Catalyst?

Rob Parnell
4 min readApr 4, 2021

I’ve been reading a book on economic theory this week — and it’s got me thinking.

Now, apparently the subject of economics is famous in the publishing industry as the kiss of death to success — the equivalent of a huge yawn of indifference in the mind of the public.

But with demonstrations on Wall Street, recessions and financial crashes in the air, it’s clear that people are trying very hard to understand the impact of economic theory on our lives.

I’d like to spend this week’s article looking at the artist and writer in relation to the world economy.

Economics is about seeing order amid the chaos of every day life — and from that order, being able to make predictions — albeit generalized ones that often don’t seem to pan out…

The trouble with economic generalizations is that they’re not every flattering to people.

Current economic theory requires that the vast majority of the population are single minded drones who work for a living.

Also, that there are some ‘special’ people called business owners and property owners and then, there are a whole bunch of interfering governments who don’t really know what they’re doing.

And if you think this oversimplification sounds like a recipe for disaster, you’d be wrong — because it’s what has held modern society together for over three hundred years — basically since the start of the industrial revolution.

However, one of the major problems with this system is that it allows — indeed encourages — speculators to play with the fortunes the system creates — with dire consequences like global financial meltdowns when they get it wrong — hence the Wall Street demos.

Far be in from me to suggest that Wall Street and all the other stock exchanges around the world should be replaced by computers — or monkeys, whichever is your preference — both of which have been proved to work better and more reliably than the traders…

But social change and improvement is not high on the priority list of those who make money — unless, of course, there’s more money in it!

It’s interesting to me that the Green movement has only taken hold since it was re-shaped — by economists — as a profitable enterprise.

But anyway, I digress.

I’m not going to write a book about this — only give you my views today on how the artist can and does assume a crucial role within our economic system.

For centuries artists have been relegated to the outside of the market system.

But in my view, they are at its heart — the very catalyst that creates and maintains society — and the only real agent of profound change we might have as a forward looking civilization.

Here’s what I think is going on.

Yes, it’s simplistic view — but then, so, apparently, are all the best economic models.

I see society split into three basic groups: The Active, The Inert and The Catalysts.

The Active are all those who work for a living, help to produce goods and services and generally pay their way through life as consumers and active participants in the betterment of themselves and mankind.

The Inert, whether by choice or not, are those that exist without any direct form of production — those on welfare, students, the retired, etc.

Don’t get the wrong end of the stick and assume I’m denigrating what I term as the Inert.

I’m not.

Just like the atom, an active proton is bonded to the inert neutron to create a stable particle.

If you like, the atom is the perfect analogy for how our society in structured.

But as any scientist will tell you, in order to re-structure an atom you need a catalyst to induce change.

I define The Catalyst as any member or group in society that is motivated by change — or the need to create something out of nothing.

Writers, artists, business, charitable and political leaders, philosophers, engineers, inventors, even entrepreneurs are all important catalysts.

And without catalysts, I would suggest that society falls apart — for without constant change and improvement, there’s nothing to keep the system from stagnating — and perhaps collapsing.

So you might be seemingly inert, in that you’ve worked all your life and now have enough to retire.

In reality, if you’re a writer or some kind of artist, for instance, you’re still a catalyst — an agent of change at the heart of the system.

It happens this way all the time.

Steve Jobs — a young rebel who went on to create a multi-billion dollar industry. JK Rowling, an unemployed single mother goes on to create the same.

Both examples are catalysts without whom the world would be a dry and unimaginative place.

Now, I’m not so naive as to suggest that catalysts are not motivated by money. Most of them are.

Money, after all, is the grease that oils the great machine of society.

Money is not the problem — it’s merely those that want to create it for its own sake that are the problem, usually by riding on the coat-tails of our more creative individuals.

True catalysts want to see the change first — whether that’s a book or a movie, a more compassionate society or a new wi fi tablet — and then be rewarded for their labor and vision by proving that the world needed that change.

So, don’t let anyone tell you that being any kind of artist or writer is a waste of your time.

It’s not.

As a Catalyst, you are the very engine of progress, enlightenment and the positive enrichment of our species.

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell’s Writing Academy


“A definition is the enclosing of a wilderness of idea within a wall of words.” Samuel Butler



Rob Parnell

Bestselling Author and Owner of Rob Parnell’s Writing Academy