The Darwin Economy: Liberty, Competition, and the Common Good by Robert H. FrankThe Darwin Economy: Liberty, Competition, and the Common Good by Robert H. Frank

The Darwin Economy: Liberty, Competition, and the Common Good

byRobert H. Frank

Paperback | September 16, 2012

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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 ofThe 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.


In a new afterword, Frank further explores how the themes of inequality and competition are driving today's public debate on how much government we need.

Robert H. Frankis an economics professor at Cornell's Johnson Graduate School of Management, a regular "Economic View" columnist for theNew York Times, and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Demos. His books, which have been translated into twenty-two languages, includeThe Winner-Take-All Society(with Philip Cook),The Economic Naturalist...
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Title:The Darwin Economy: Liberty, Competition, and the Common GoodFormat:PaperbackDimensions:272 pagesPublished:September 16, 2012Publisher:Princeton University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0691156689

ISBN - 13:9780691156682

Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from Well-established author, solid subject matter I got a review copy of this book and pubilshed a book review. Frank is highly regarded in the field, and certainly shows why here. An interesting take on how the economy follows the principles of natural selection and survival of the fittest. Not a stretch at all for the parallel, recommended.
Date published: 2018-06-25

Table of Contents

Preface ix
Chapter 1 Paralysis 1
Chapter 2 Darwin's Wedge 16
Chapter 3 No Cash on the Table 30
Chapter 4 Starve the Beast--But Which One? 46
Chapter 5 Putting the Positional Consumption Beast on a Diet 64
Chapter 6 Perpetrators and Victims 84
Chapter 7 Efficiency Rules 100
Chapter 8 "It's Your Money . . ." 119
Chapter 9 Success and Luck 140
Chapter 10 The Great Trade-Off? 157
Chapter 11 Taxing Harmful Activities 172
Chapter 12 The Libertarian's Objections Reconsidered 194
Afterword to the Paperback Edition 217
Notes 223
Index 235

Editorial Reviews

"Robert Frank is a national treasure in our discussions about public policy. He shows here that our understanding of economics needs to be informed more by a sophisticated interpretation of Charles Darwin than by a simplistic view of Adam Smith. Given the state of our politics, this latest dose of Frank advice deserves to be widely read."-Robert D. Putnam, author of Bowling Alone and American Grace