The Darwin Economy
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By Kelly Evans These days, the invisible hand isn’t looking quite so benign. For the past three centuries, the tremendous, unprecedented rise in humankind’s material wealth has been taken as self-evidence that Adam Smith — the founding father of economics — was correct in his seemingly paradoxical assertion that individuals pursuing their own self-interest are the best means to collective improvement for any given society. AFP/Getty Images
Since Darwin, the pioneering naturalist, never thought of himself as an economist, the question seems absurd. Yet his understanding of competition describes economic reality far more accurately than Smith’s. Within the next century, I predict, Darwin will be seen by most economists as the intellectual founder of their discipline.
Robert Frank is an economist at Cornell University and author, most recently, of “ The Darwin Economy: Liberty, Competition and the Common Good ,” which argues that in a time of austerity, the best way to cut budget deficits is to focus our cuts on the spending we do to compete with one another rather than the spending that actually makes our lives better. You can read a short version of the argument here . We spoke about the book Friday, and an edited transcript of our conversation follows.
Robert H. Frank. Charles Darwin, not Adam Smith, will one day be considered the father of economics, says Cornell University professor and New York Times columnist Robert H. Frank in his new book, The Darwin Economy .