9780691156682

The Darwin Economy

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780691156682

  • ISBN10:

    0691156689

  • Edition: Revised
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 8/27/2012
  • Publisher: Princeton Univ Pr

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Summary

Who was the greater economist--Adam Smith or Charles Darwin? The question seems absurd. Darwin, after all, was a naturalist, not an economist. But Robert Frank, New York Timeseconomics columnist and best-selling author of The Economic Naturalist, predicts that within the next century Darwin will unseat Smith as the intellectual founder of economics. The reason, Frank argues, is that Darwin's understanding of competition describes economic reality far more accurately than Smith's. And the consequences of this fact are profound. Indeed, the failure to recognize that we live in Darwin's world rather than Smith's is putting us all at risk by preventing us from seeing that competition alone will not solve our problems. Smith's theory of the invisible hand, which says that competition channels self-interest for the common good, is probably the most widely cited argument today in favor of unbridled competition--and against regulation, taxation, and even government itself. But what if Smith's idea was almost an exception to the general rule of competition? That's what Frank argues, resting his case on Darwin's insight that individual and group interests often diverge sharply. Far from creating a perfect world, economic competition often leads to "arms races," encouraging behaviors that not only cause enormous harm to the group but also provide no lasting advantages for individuals, since any gains tend to be relative and mutually offsetting. The good news is that we have the ability to tame the Darwin economy. The best solution is not to prohibit harmful behaviors but to tax them. By doing so, we could make the economic pie larger, eliminate government debt, and provide better public services, all without requiring painful sacrifices from anyone. That's a bold claim, Frank concedes, but it follows directly from logic and evidence that most people already accept.

Author Biography

Robert H. Frank is an economics professor at Cornell's Johnson Graduate School of Management, a regular "Economic View" columnist for the New York Times, and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Demos. His books, which have been translated into twenty-two languages, include The Winner-Take-All Society (with Philip Cook), The Economic Naturalist, Luxury Fever, What Price the Moral High Ground?, and Principles of Economics (with Ben Bernanke).

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
Paralysisp. 1
Darwin's Wedgep. 16
No Cash on the Tablep. 30
Starve the Beast-But Which One?p. 46
Putting the Positional Consumption Beast on a Dietp. 64
Perpetrators and Victimsp. 84
Efficiency Rulesp. 100
"Its Your Money…"p. 119
Success and Luckp. 140
The Great Trade-Off?p. 157
Taxing Harmful Activitiesp. 172
The Libertarians Objections Reconsideredp. 194
Afterword to the Paperback Editionp. 217
Notesp. 223
Indexp. 235
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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