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Humans as factors of production: an evolutionary analysis

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  • Paul H. Rubin

    (Department of Economics, Emory University, GA, USA)

  • E. Somanathan

    (Department of Economics, University of Michigan, USA)

Abstract

This paper is an application of Darwinian analysis to the study of humans as inputs to the production process. Biologists believe that the only factor capable of explaining the extraordinary level of human intelligence is selection pressure from competition with other proto-humans. This selection pressure would have been from two sources. First, there would have been pressure within human groups to become more successful and leave more offspring. Second, there would have been selection pressure between groups, as through warfare and other forms of group competition. This second type of pressure would have provided evolutionary incentives for individuals to be able to cooperate in groups with others, which in turn depends on the ability to avoid cheating, or defection in a prisoner's dilemma setting. There would also have been feedback effects: increasing intelligence would have increased the value of cooperation, and increasing cooperation would have in turn increased the value of intelligence. This selection pressure can explain human abilities to form large extra-familial and extra-ethnic groups for productive activity. In other words, Becker's 'discrimination coefficients' are remarkably small for humans. We provide an evolutionary game theoretic model of cooperation. We argue that humans may be selected for flexibility across generations, so that more honest societies will induce parents to train children to avoid defection, thus leading to a further increase in the proportion of honest persons in the society. We conclude that had humans had different 'tastes' for cooperation, then firms might be radically different than they are. © 1998 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. in its journal Managerial and Decision Economics.

Volume (Year): 19 (1999)
Issue (Month): 7-8 ()
Pages: 441-455

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Handle: RePEc:wly:mgtdec:v:19:y:1999:i:7-8:p:441-455

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Web page: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/jhome/7976

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  1. Rogers, Alan R, 1994. "Evolution of Time Preference by Natural Selection," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 460-81, June.
  2. Brinig, Margaret F, 1990. "Rings and Promises," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 6(1), pages 203-15, Spring.
  3. Hirshleifer, Jack, 1977. "Economics from a Biological Viewpoint," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(1), pages 1-52, April.
  4. Shelanski, Howard A & Klein, Peter G, 1995. "Empirical Research in Transaction Cost Economics: A Review and Assessment," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(2), pages 335-61, October.
  5. Jack Hirshleifer, 1977. "Economics from a Biological Viewpoint," UCLA Economics Working Papers 087, UCLA Department of Economics.
  6. Waldman, Michael, 1994. "Systematic Errors and the Theory of Natural Selection," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 482-97, June.
  7. Becker, Gary S., 1971. "The Economics of Discrimination," University of Chicago Press Economics Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 1, number 9780226041162, April.
  8. Sethi, Rajiv & Somanathan, E, 1996. "The Evolution of Social Norms in Common Property Resource Use," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(4), pages 766-88, September.
  9. Richard A. Posner, 1979. "A Theory of Primitive Society with Special Reference to Law," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State 7, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
  10. Arthur J. Robson, 1995. "The Evolution of Strategic Behaviour," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 28(1), pages 17-41, February.
  11. Rubin, Paul H & Paul, Chris W, II, 1979. "An Evolutionary Model of Taste for Risk," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 17(4), pages 585-96, October.
  12. Hansson, Ingemar & Stuart, Charles, 1990. "Malthusian Selection of Preferences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(3), pages 529-44, June.
  13. Robson, Arthur J., 1996. "The Evolution of Attitudes to Risk: Lottery Tickets and Relative Wealth," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 14(2), pages 190-207, June.
  14. Rubin, Paul H., 1982. "Evolved ethics and efficient ethics," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 3(2-3), pages 161-174.
  15. Robson, Arthur J., 1996. "A Biological Basis for Expected and Non-expected Utility," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 68(2), pages 397-424, February.
  16. Frank, Robert H, 1987. "If Homo Economicus Could Choose His Own Utility Function, Would He Want One with a Conscience?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(4), pages 593-604, September.
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Cited by:
  1. Satoshi Kanazawa, 2004. "The Savanna Principle," Managerial and Decision Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 25(1), pages 41-54.
  2. Somanathan, E. & Rubin, Paul H., 2004. "The evolution of honesty," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 1-17, May.
  3. Geoffrey Hodgson & Thorbjørn Knudsen, 2008. "In search of general evolutionary principles: Why Darwinism is too important to be left to the biologists," Journal of Bioeconomics, Springer, vol. 10(1), pages 51-69, April.
  4. Hodgson, Geoffrey M. & Knudsen, Thorbjorn, 2006. "Why we need a generalized Darwinism, and why generalized Darwinism is not enough," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 1-19, September.

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