Thursday, October 7, 2010

Modern commerce vs. evolutionary psychology

Photo by Carol Clark

Emory economist Paul Rubin writes in the Wall Street Journal about how evolutionary psychology may play a role in "the protectionist instinct" when it comes to commerce:

As unemployment remains high and the election nears, many politicians are again campaigning against free trade and its cousin, outsourcing. Polls show voters are increasingly skeptical of the benefits of free trade. There is no area where the beliefs of ordinary citizens are more at odds with the views of professional economists.

Why is that? Why do so many people have difficulty understanding the benefits of international trade, while clinging to counterproductive policies that reduce consumer welfare by limiting it? An answer can be found in the writings of the Nobel Prize-winning economist Friedrich Hayek and of evolutionary psychologists.

In "The Fatal Conceit" (1988), Hayek wrote that "man's instincts . . . were not made for the kinds of surroundings, and for the numbers, in which he now lives. They were adapted to life in the small roving bands or troops in which the human race and its immediate ancestors evolved during the few million years while the biological constitution of homo sapiens was being formed." His insight anticipated the modern field of study called evolutionary psychology, which explains current belief systems as being based in part on our evolutionary history.

Read the whole column in the Wall Street Journal
. FYI: The WSJ wants you to subscribe to see the full story, which seems a bit protectionist. : )

Your money and the herd mentality
Getting a grip on cultural evolution

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