Friday, September 30, 2011

David Sloan Wilson on evolution and economics


A flurry of recent activity indicates that evolution is beginning to occupy center stage in economic debates--and not a moment too soon.

Recently published books include Robert Frank's The Darwin Economy: Liberty, Competition, and the Common Good (in which he predicts that Darwin will eventually be regarded as the father of economics), Yochai Benkler's The Penguin and the Leviathan: How Cooperation Triumphs Over Self-Interest, Geoffrey Hodgson and Thorbjorn Knudsen's Darwin's Conjecture: The Search for General Principles of Social and Economic Evolution, and my own The Neighborhood Project: Using Evolution to Improve My City, One Block at a Time.

Behind the trade books is a growing academic movement, including a recently concluded conference organized by Denise Dollimore and Geoffrey Hodgson titled Evolutionary Thinking and Its Policy Implications for Modern Capitalism. As president of the Evolution Institute, I am privileged to function as a coordinator in addition to my own contribution, including a collaboration with NSF's National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) on integrating economics and evolution. One result has been a white paper submitted to NSF titled "The Relevance of Evolution for Economic Theory and Policy", co-authored with economist John Gowdy and with 64 signatories, including luminaries such as Pulitzer prizewinner E.O. Wilson and Nobel laureate Elinor Ostrom....

4 comments:

Laura said...

Analogies may be good for debates but they are hardly scientific.

Matt Franko said...

Tom,

"According to Whitfield, opponents of progressive taxation are pursuing a strategy favored by within-group selection. If they succeed, they will be the last ones standing aboard the sinking ship. Whitfield's use of the word "rational" implies that the opponents are consciously aware of their strategy and its consequences. I have my doubts. It's equally likely that in their own minds, opponents of progressive taxation are convinced that they're saving the ship. Once again, it is important to distinguish between proximate and ultimate causation. "

Tom,
Both sides in this debate are hopelessly out of paradigm. They may be wasting time and effort.

Can you send Wilson an email and clue him into the realities of a FFNC currency system? Roger Erickson knows MMT and looks like he knows evolution too perhaps refer Wilson to Roger's stuff....

To me, it looks like the human knew exactly how a state currency worked in history/at once upon a time (see "Hut Tax" on wikipedia, archaeology of Roman Brittania, the Biblical accounts, etc..) Somewhere along the line we lost it... this would be interesting to investigate..

Resp,

Tom Hickey said...

Right, Matt, both sides are talking past each other since neither of them understands monetary economics. Roger Erickson needs to set them straight.

But its good that we are beginning to talk about this in terms of contemporary evolutionary theory in that it shows how max u and equilibrium models based on it are unsustainable in light of the facts.

Matt Franko said...

Right Tom... I sometimes wonder if increasing reliance on Information Technology (even going way back to just paper ledgers) is "dulling" human mathematical cognition across the board.... producing a very subtle/hard to detect form of discalculia across humanity, hard to understand why people dont pick this up right away like we do...

It would be important for contemporary researchers who are trying to overlay evolution onto economics to understand how our current systems really work because it is logically absurd to think way back when, the human concept of taxation in a state currency just appeared ex nihilo.

For something to appear in human history it's basically self evident that somebody had to first understand it or think of the idea. It would seem to me that you would want to approach it from that angle if you are investigating the applicability of evolution to modern day economics....

As evolution does not recognize any form of ex nihilo activity, I would think that these researchers would want to be made aware of their unintended use of the ex nihilo concept that underlies the "taxpayer on the hook" belief that both sides of this debate exhibit here...

Resp,