nep-evo New Economics Papers
on Evolutionary Economics
Issue of 2010‒03‒28
six papers chosen by
Matthew Baker
City University of New York

  1. A Neo-Darwinian Foundation of Evolutionary Economics. With an Application to the Theory of the Firm. By Fritz Rahmeyer
  2. Towards an alternative paradigm of consumer behavior By Viviana Di Giovinazzo
  3. Does Conflict Affect Preferences? Results from Field Experiments in Burundi By M. Voorst; E. Nillesen; Philip Verwimp; E. Bulte; R. Lensink; D. van Soest
  4. Entropy, function and evolution: naturalizing Peircian semiosis By Herrmann-Pillath, Carsten
  5. "But Can't we Get the Same Thing with a Standard Model?" Rationalizing Bounded-Rationality Models By Spiegler, Ran
  6. The Inheritance of Gregory Clark By McCloskey, Deirdre Nansen

  1. By: Fritz Rahmeyer (University of Augsburg, Department of Economics)
    Abstract: The focus of evolutionary economics is a process of continuous economic and organizational change. Currently there is no agreement on the explanation of economic evolution. Rather there are competing interpretations. To achieve a common understanding of economic evolution, from the perspective of the history of economic thought, at first the theoretical approaches of Schumpeter and Marshall with regard to economic development or evolution are dealt with. After that, a concept of socio-economic evolution in broad agreement with evolution in nature is elaborated. It is summed up in the version of a generalized Darwinism. In this, evolution is seen as a process of change that leads to the adaptation of complex systems, the result of the causal interaction among variation, selection and retention of variety. As a (slightly) different interpretation the presently predominating approach of neo-Schumpeterian evolutionary economics is presented. It has gained wide application to the theory of innovation and later - based on Penrose - to resource-based theories of the firm. In this the dynamic process of the creation and exploitation of resources, mainly knowledge, turns out to be the centre of attention of an evolutionary theory of the firm.
    Keywords: Economic evolution, Schumpeter and Marshall, Generalized Darwinism, Evolutionary theory of the firm
    JEL: A12 B15 B52 D21
    Date: 2010–02
  2. By: Viviana Di Giovinazzo
    Abstract: This paper explores Scitovsky’s contribution to behavioral economics and examines in particular the changes his theory based on the findings of human brain psychophysiologists has brought to choice theory. The evidence here gathered points out how Scitovsky was making his suggestions for an alternative to the rationalist-based theory of choice model as far back in the early 1970s. The same evidence singles out Scitovsky as one of the most influential forerunners of a successful program of psychologically-based economic research which has only recently been acknowledged as a promising field for further investigation.
    Keywords: Scitovsky, behavioral economics, arousal, comfort, pleasure, satisfaction, rational-choice theory
    JEL: A12 B59 D11
    Date: 2010–03
  3. By: M. Voorst; E. Nillesen; Philip Verwimp; E. Bulte; R. Lensink; D. van Soest
    Abstract: We use experimental data from 35 randomly selected communities in Burundi to examine the impact of exposure to conflict on social-, risk- and time preferences. These types of preferences are important as they determine people’s propensity to invest and their ability to overcome social dilemmas, so that changes therein foster or hinder economic growth. We find that conflict affects preferences. Individuals that have been exposed to greater levels of violence display more altruistic behavior towards their neighbors, are more risk seeking, and have higher discount rates. Adverse, but temporary, shocks can thus alter savings and investments decisions, and potentially have long-run consequences.
    Keywords: civil war, preferences, field experiments, Africa.
    Date: 2010
  4. By: Herrmann-Pillath, Carsten
    Abstract: Cybersemiotics claims that the standard uses of the Shannon information concept as applied on systems with cognition and communication fail to account for the semantic dimension of semiosis. This argument does not properly recognize the role of entropy in semiosis. Entropy comes into full play if semiosis is seen as a purely physical process involving causal interactions between physical systems with functions. Functions emerge from evolutionary processes, as conceived in recent philosophical contributions to teleosemantics. In this context, causal interactions can be interpreted in a dual mode, namely as standard causation and as an observation. Thus, a function appears to be the interpretand in the Peircian triadic notion of the sign. Recognizing this duality, the Gibbs/Jaynes notion of entropy can be added to the picture, which shares an essential conceptual feature with the notion of function: Both concepts are a part of a physicalist ontology, but are observer relative at the same time. Thus, it is possible to give an account of semiosis within the entropy framework without limiting the notion of entropy to the Shannon measure, but taking full account of the thermodynamic definition. A central feature of this approach is the conceptual linkage between the evolution of functions and maximum entropy production. --
    Keywords: Functions,Jaynes' approach to entropy,observer relativity,maximum entropy production,evolution of functions,Peirce's concept of semiosis,semiosphere
    JEL: A12 Z0
    Date: 2010
  5. By: Spiegler, Ran
    Abstract: This paper discusses a common criticism of economic models that depart from the standard rational-choice paradigm - namely, that the phenomena addressed by such models can be "rationalized" by some standard model. I criticize this criterion for evaluating bounded-rationality models. Using a market model with boundedly rational consumers due to Spiegler (2006a) as a test case, I show that even when it initially appears that a bounded-rationality model can be rationalized by a standard model, the rationalizing models tend to come with unwarranted "extra baggage". I conclude that we should impose a greater burden of proof on rationalizations that are offered in refutation of such models.
    Keywords: Bounded rationality; methodology; theory selection; rationalizations
    JEL: B49
    Date: 2010–03–15
  6. By: McCloskey, Deirdre Nansen
    Abstract: An extreme materialist hypothesis explaining the Industrial Revolution would be simply genetic. Gregory Clark asserts such a theory of sociobiological inheritance in his Farewell to Alms (2007). Rich people proliferated in England, Clark argues, and by a social Darwinian struggle the poor and incompetent died out, leaving a master race of Englishmen with the bourgeois values to conquer the world. Clark will have no truck with ideas as causes, adopting a materialist (and as he believes is implied by materialism a quantitative) theory of truth. His method, that is, follows Marx in historical materialism, as many scholars did 1890 to 1980. But he does not follow through on his promise to show his argument quantitatively. The argument fails, on many grounds. For one thing, non-English people succeeded, as for instance the Chinese now are succeeding. And such people have always done fine in a bourgeois country. For another, Clark does not show that his inheritance mechanism has the quantitative oomph to change people generally into bourgeois, nor does he show that bourgeois habits of working hard mattered, or that bourgeois values caused innovation. What made for success in 1500 is not obviously the same as what made for innovation in 1800. And in the modern world of literacy such values are not transmitted down families, but across families. Literal inheritance anyway dissipates in reversion to the mean. What mattered in modern economic growth was not a doubtfully measured change in the inherited abilities of English people. What mattered was a radical change 1600-1776, “measurable” in every play and pamphlet, in what English people wanted, paid for, revalued.
    Keywords: gregory clark; economic history; industrial revolution; sociobiological inheritance
    JEL: N01 N0 N34
    Date: 2009–07

This nep-evo issue is ©2010 by Matthew Baker. It is provided as is without any express or implied warranty. It may be freely redistributed in whole or in part for any purpose. If distributed in part, please include this notice.
General information on the NEP project can be found at For comments please write to the director of NEP, Marco Novarese at <>. Put “NEP” in the subject, otherwise your mail may be rejected.
NEP’s infrastructure is sponsored by the School of Economics and Finance of Massey University in New Zealand.