June 30, 2008
News & Opinion: Evolutionary Economics
If the fruit of the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 hasn't landed in your bank account yet, it's likely just a matter of time before you're throwing $600 on the bed just to see what it feels like to roll around in that much cash. The government, of course, hopes that we won't just pay bills or sock it away in savings but that we'll circulate the money back into the marketplace and thereby jump-start our sagging economy. As I write, the government is also engaged in another kind of largesse, literally printing money and offering it to banks and government-backed mortgage players Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to stave off the continuing ripple effects of the credit crisis. Leaving aside whether those moves will reverse the current economic slump, the question is: Why do we think they might?
The answer may be found in a new science called evolutionary economics. This discipline looks at the economy as an ever-changing, complex adaptive system -- not unlike that of biological evolution. Immune systems, language, the law, and the Internet are all examples of other complex adaptive systems. They learn and grow from the bottom up. Individual elements (organisms in evolution, people in economics) interact and adapt to changing conditions. These systems are so intricate that they often look as though they've been designed from the top down. So our minds naturally infer the existence of an intelligent designer for complex life and a government designer for complex economies. This is why we instinctually look to Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, Treasury secretary Henry Paulson, or Congress and the President to fix the economy.
But there's more to it than that...
Keep reading on evolutionary economics over at Fast Company.
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.