nep-evo New Economics Papers
on Evolutionary Economics
Issue of 2021‒09‒20
three papers chosen by
Matthew Baker
City University of New York

  1. On the possibility of an anti-paternalist behavioural welfare economics By Thoma, Johanna
  2. Does economics make you selfish? By Daniele Girardi; Sai Madhurika Mamunuru; Simon D Halliday; Samuel Bowles
  3. On the evolution of male competitiveness By Ingela Alger

  1. By: Thoma, Johanna
    Abstract: Behavioural economics has taught us that human agents don’t always display consistent, context-independent and stable preferences in their choice behaviour. Can we nevertheless do welfare economics in a way that lives up to the anti-paternalist ideal most economists subscribe to? I here discuss Sugden’s powerful critique of most previous attempts at doing so, which he dubs the ‘New Consensus’, as appealing to problematic notions of latent preference and inner rational agency. I elaborate on a fundamental rethinking of the normative foundations of anti-paternalist welfare measurement that often remains implicit in the behavioural welfare economics literature Sugden discusses, but which is required to make these accounts minimally plausible. I argue that, if we go along with this rethinking, Bernheim and Rangel’s (2007, 2009) choice-theoretic framework withstands Sugden’s criticism. Sugden’s own, more radical proposal is thus under-motivated by his critique of the ‘New Consensus’.
    Keywords: behavioural economics; welfare economics; anti-paternalism; preference purification; choice
    JEL: N0
    Date: 2021–08–31
  2. By: Daniele Girardi (Department of Economics, University of Massachusetts Amherst (USA)); Sai Madhurika Mamunuru (Department of Economics, Whitman College (USA)); Simon D Halliday (School of Economics, University of Bristol (UK)); Samuel Bowles (Santa Fe Institute (USA))
    Abstract: It is widely held that studying economics makes you more selfish and politically conservative. We use a difference-in-differences strategy to disentangle the causal impact of economics education from selection effects. We estimate the effect of four different intermediate microeconomics courses on students’ experimentally elicited social preferences and beliefs about others, and policy opinions. We find no discernible effect of studying economics (whatever the course content) on self-interest or beliefs about others’ self-interest. Results on policy preferences also point to little effect, except that economics may make students somewhat less opposed to highly restrictive immigration policies.
    Keywords: endogenous preferences, economics education, social preferences, self-interest, generosity, altruism, reciprocity, microeconomics, teaching
    Date: 2021
  3. By: Ingela Alger (TSE - Toulouse School of Economics - UT1 - Université Toulouse 1 Capitole - Université Fédérale Toulouse Midi-Pyrénées - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - INRAE - Institut National de Recherche pour l’Agriculture, l’Alimentation et l’Environnement, IAST - Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse , CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)
    Abstract: Since a man's reproductive success depends on his ability to outcompete other men, male competitiveness may be expected to have been exposed to strong selective pressure throughout human history. Accordingly, the relatively low level of physical violence observed between men has been viewed as a puzzle. What could have limited the eagerness of men to out-compete each other? I study the evolution of male competitiveness in a model where men compete for both reproductive and productive resources. I show that high levels of male competitiveness are then consistent with evolution by natural selection if (a) the ecology is generous enough for men to supply little or no food to their children, (b) competing is not too costly in terms of productive resources, and (c) relatedness among males is low enough. While the main analysis takes women to passively accept the husband that emerges from the male-male competition, the results are qualitatively robust to allowing for female mate choice following the male-male competition game. Possible implications for our understanding of the evolution of marriage systems are discussed.
    Keywords: Male-male competition,Competitiveness,Evolution,Monogamy,Polygyny,Parental care
    Date: 2021–10

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