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How Sapient is Homo Economicus? The Evolutionary Origins of Trade, Ethics and Economic Rationality

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  • Kaushik Basu

    ()

  • Ashok Guha

Abstract

The paper argues that economism and, in particular, the individual drive to maximize utility and amass profit are not enough to ensure the efficient functioning of an economy; and that even for elementary economic activities, such as trade, exchange and contracting to occur smoothly, it is essential that human beings be endowed with appropriate social norms, such as a critical level of trustworthiness. This, in turn, implies that an economy’s development can depend significantly on whether the citizen is endowed with the relevant norms. Where these norms come from and how they gather stability remain open questions, though we can get some important insights from theories of evolutionary processes.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by eSocialSciences in its series Working Papers with number id:2240.

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Date of creation: Oct 2009
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Handle: RePEc:ess:wpaper:id:2240

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Keywords: ecomism; economic rationality; profit; elementary economic; economy development; theories; economics; evolutionary processes trade; exchange; utility; human beings; rationality;

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  1. Basu, Kaushik & Weibull, Jörgen W., 2002. "Punctuality - A Cultural Trait as Equilibrium," Working Paper Series 582, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  2. Kagel, John H, et al, 1975. "Experimental Studies of Consumer Demand Behavior Using Laboratory Animals," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 13(1), pages 22-38, March.
  3. Amos Tversky & Daniel Kahneman, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Levine's Working Paper Archive 7656, David K. Levine.
  4. Basu, Kaushik, 2000. "Prelude to Political Economy: A Study of the Social and Political Foundations of Economics," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198296713, September.
  5. Ariel Rubinstein, 2004. "Dilemmas of an Economic Theorist," Econometric Society 2004 North American Summer Meetings 661, Econometric Society.
  6. Luigi Guiso & Paola Sapienza & Luigi Zingales, 2004. "The Role of Social Capital in Financial Development," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(3), pages 526-556, June.
  7. Tore Ellingsen & Magnus Johannesson, 2008. "Pride and Prejudice: The Human Side of Incentive Theory," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(3), pages 990-1008, June.
  8. Tversky, Amos & Kahneman, Daniel, 1991. "Loss Aversion in Riskless Choice: A Reference-Dependent Model," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 106(4), pages 1039-61, November.
  9. Basu, Kaushik, 1994. "The Traveler's Dilemma: Paradoxes of Rationality in Game Theory," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(2), pages 391-95, May.
  10. Luigi Guiso & Paola Sapienza & Luigi Zingales, 2006. "Does Culture Affect Economic Outcomes?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(2), pages 23-48, Spring.
  11. Greif, Avner, 1993. "Contract Enforceability and Economic Institutions in Early Trade: the Maghribi Traders' Coalition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(3), pages 525-48, June.
  12. Basu, Kaushik, 2009. "Altruism, Other-Regarding Behavior and Identity: The Moral Basis of Prosperity and Oppression," Working Papers 09-06, Cornell University, Center for Analytic Economics.
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