nep-evo New Economics Papers
on Evolutionary Economics
Issue of 2015‒08‒01
five papers chosen by
Matthew Baker
City University of New York

  1. Hunter-Gatherer Societies: their Diversity and Evolutionary Processes By Svizzero, Serge; Tisdell, Clem
  2. The Failure of Neoclassical Economics Modelling and Human Behavioural Ecology to Satisfactorily Explain the Evolution of Neolithic Society By Tisdell, Clem; Svizzero, Serge
  3. The Malthusian Trap and Development in Pre-Industrial Societies: A View Differing from the Standard One By Tisdell, Clem; Svizzero, Serge
  4. Rent Extraction, Population Growth and Economic Development: Development Despite Malthus' Theory and Precursors to the Industrial Revolution By Tisdell, Clem; Svizzero, Serge
  5. The democratic transition By Fabrice Murtin; null null

  1. By: Svizzero, Serge; Tisdell, Clem
    Abstract: It is argued that attributes which have been widely used to typify hunter-gatherer societies are inadequate for several reasons. One is that they fail to capture the full extent of the diversity of these societies. We suggest some additional attributes which should be taken into account in characterizing these societies. Linear (unidirectional) models of the development of prehistoric societies are criticized and multi-linear models are discussed. Currently, three main stereotypes of the nature of hunter-gatherer societies exist. While these indicate that they were diverse, they fail to capture the full extent of their diversity. It is suggested that this diversity increased with the passage of time and was shaped by the varied local eco-geographic conditions (local resource endowments) in which these societies existed. This raises the question of whether this development had the same basis as speciation in the biological theory of natural selection. This is discussed and then particular attention is given to Adam Smith’s vision of the evolution of human societies. In conclusion, it is suggested that the evolutionary path of modern societies has diverged from that of prehistoric societies.
    Keywords: Biological diversity, biological evolution, hunters and gatherers, prehistoric societies, social diversity, social evolution., Community/Rural/Urban Development, Land Economics/Use, Livestock Production/Industries, O1, P00, P4, P5,
    Date: 2014–08
  2. By: Tisdell, Clem; Svizzero, Serge
    Abstract: Examines two parallel approaches, one in economics and the other in anthropology, intended to explain the behaviours of Neolithic societies, particularly their transit from foraging to agriculture. Both approaches assume that human behaviour is a response to rational human decisions to optimise. The application of microeconomic theory by a Danish professor to explain the transition of foragers to agriculture and the corresponding complementary views of some American anthropologists about this transition are outlined and discussed. While these approaches provide valuable insights into the evolution of Neolithic societies, it is also important to be aware of their limitations, several of which are identified in this article. Such approaches are unlikely to provide a general theory of the evolution of Neolithic societies. Because of the diversity of human behaviours, a range of theories are required.
    Keywords: Economic evolution, economic optimisation, human behavioural ecology, hunter-gatherers, Neolithic Revolution, satisficing behaviour, Research and Development/Tech Change/Emerging Technologies, D01, 010, P00, Q10,
    Date: 2015–02–02
  3. By: Tisdell, Clem; Svizzero, Serge
    Abstract: Presents a simple economic theory explaining how some agriculturally based preindustrial societies (for example, in the Neolithic period) developed despite most of their population being subject to Malthusian dynamics. Their development depended on a dominant class (limited in size) extracting the economic surplus which could be used (among other things) to accumulate capital and advance knowledge and thereby, add to this surplus. Cities facilitated this process. Extraction of the surplus prevented increased population from dissipating it and curtailing development. Several early extractive and non-inclusive societies were long lasting. This is at odds with the theories of some contemporary development economists.
    Keywords: Institutional economics, Malthusian trap, Neolithic development, population dynamics, social inequality and development, Research and Development/Tech Change/Emerging Technologies, O1, P4, N00,
    Date: 2015–01–29
  4. By: Tisdell, Clem; Svizzero, Serge
    Abstract: Several contemporary economists claim that ‘real’ economic development only occurred following the Industrial Revolution. We contend that this is only so if a narrow view is taken of what constitutes economic development, namely increasing per capita income. Given a wider perspective, we argue that economic development occurred in hunter-gatherer societies and eventually accelerated in the second stage of the Agricultural Revolution. During this stage, a small dominant class (the elite) were able to extract rent (the economic surplus) from the mass of the population (the dominated) which they could use for development purposes. As a result of this rent extraction, the bulk of the population remained at subsistence level. Nevertheless, dissipation of the rent as a result of population increase was prevented. Consequently, the Malthusian trap could be avoided and the economic surplus could be used by the elite for development or other purposes. Whether or not economic development occurred depended on how the elite allocated the economic surplus. In the second stage of the Agricultural Revolution, the economic surplus was extracted primarily in the form of staples and the exchange of commodities was mostly directly controlled by the elite. This situation changed as states became larger in size and commodities became more diverse. In the few centuries preceding the Industrial Revolution in Europe, monarchs exerted decreasing direct control over the exchange, production and use of commodities. This was particularly noticeable in England. Also devolution of increased political power to nobles and local areas added to principal-and-agent problems. Sovereigns, instead of concentrating on the extraction of the economic surplus in the form of staples, increasingly relied on its extraction and storage in the form of treasures, precious metals and gems. Monarchs (in order to maximize their net extraction) focused on increasing the number of different markets and the extent of these but at the same time, extracted rent from them in the form of levies. Consequently, this Age of Mercantilism was marked by a substantial expansion in marketing even though this was combined with royal imposts on markets. This increase in marketing activities helped to pave the way for the Industrial Revolution by altering the balance of political power and facilitating sales of the products of the Industrial Revolution. Despite this, it seems likely that the Industrial Revolution only happened as a result of the chance occurrence of a combination of events. It was not inevitable.
    Keywords: economic development, economic surplus, Malthus, pre-industrial economics, rent extraction., Community/Rural/Urban Development, Institutional and Behavioral Economics, Research and Development/Tech Change/Emerging Technologies, N00, O1,
    Date: 2015–05–08
  5. By: Fabrice Murtin (Departement d'Economie de Sciences Po); null null (Anderson School of Management)
    Abstract: Over the last two centuries, many countries experienced regime transitions toward democracy. We document this democratic transition over a long time horizon. We use historical time series of income, education and democracy levels from 1870 to 2000 to explore the economic factors associated with rising levels of democracy. We find that primary schooling, and to a weaker extent per capita income levels, are strong determinants of the quality of political institutions. We find little evidence of causality running the other way, from democracy to income or education.
    Keywords: Democracy; Modernization; Human Capital; GMM
    JEL: I25 N30 N40 O43
    Date: 2014–06

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