Evolutionary theory and capitalism
Posted by aogSaturday, 15 November 2003 at 21:45 TrackBack Ping URL

Orrin Judd cites Jason Potts:

Evolutionary economics is a modern recapturing of that primacy. It is not an historical footnote, but an essential insight into the relation between evolutionary theory, economic theory and liberalism. The common ancestry of both evolution and economics stems from the moral philosophers of the 18th century Continental and Scottish Enlightenment, amongst whom were Hume and Smith.

This gets at the essence of evolutionary theory. This is that complex, self sustaining systems can arise without a central authority, i.e. through the local actions of elements in the system. You don’t need a directing deity to explain the biosphere anymore than you need a Central Economic Planning Comittee to explain the US economy. This is very similar to the problem that many of the Soviet leaders have - they simply could not comprehend that the US economy could function without a central, explicitly directing authority.

The fact that the invotations in the economy are the result of intelligent decisions by individual people is just an implementation detail and not an essential feature of the system. It’s key to not conflate the individual decisions, even if intelligently selected, with centralized decisions. The difference is the flow of information, a point elaborated by the cite above.

Now, you could back up a bit and talk about the legal infrastructure the permits capitalism. These are the “rules of the game” and the corresponding laws in the natural world are the laws of physics and chemistry. The legal structure is far more of a designed nature than the actual activity of the economy. However, even there some argue that even the legal structure is evolutionary and created more in response to problems than designed. However, at this point we’ve gone to a designed universe, which is not incompatible with the full evolutionary theory.