Evolutionary economics

An evolutionary theorist has an answer for economic theory and I especially like his incorporation of history into the theoretical story:

Evolutionists have a conceptual toolkit that can be applied to the study of any aspect of any organism. This includes asking four questions in parallel, concerning the function, history, physical mechanism, and development of the trait. For example, species that live in the desert are typically sandy-coloured. How do we go about explaining this fact? First they are sandy-coloured to avoid detection by their predators and prey (a functional explanation). Second, the sandy colouration is achieved by various physical mechanisms, depending upon the species — fur in mammals, chitin in insects, feathers in birds (a physical explanation). What is more, the particular mechanism is based in part on the lineage of the species (an historical explanation) and develops during the lifetime of the organism by a variety of pathways (a developmental explanation). Answering these four questions results in a fully rounded understanding of colouration in desert species. All branches of biology are unified by this approach. . . .

And yet, evolutionary theory does lead to a viable concept of the invisible hand, albeit one that is different from the received economic version. Indeed, the biological world has its own version of the invisible hand. Cells, multicellular organisms, and social insect colonies are all higher-level social units that function with exquisite precision without the lower-level units having the welfare of the higher-level units in mind. In most cases, the lower-level units don’t even have minds in the human sense of the word. These miracles of spontaneous organisation exist because selection operating on the higher-level units has winnowed down the small fraction of traits in the lower-level units that contribute to the good of the group. If the invisible hand operates in human groups, it is due to a similar history of selection, first at the level of small-scale groups during our genetic evolution, and then at the level of larger-scale groups during our cultural evolution.

All very micro unfortunately. The big questions, however, are about the overall trend of the entire structure which can only be answered in ways that biologists have little to offer.

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