The Bioeconomics of Cooperation
When transactions and information are costly and exchange is non-simultaneous, ‘institutions matter’. They matter because exchange under these circumstances subjects the participants to potentially harmful behaviors by other participants, among which are: opportunistic behavior, agency, the free-rider problem, cheating, moral hazard, and adverse selection. Institutions constrain these behaviors, allowing the participants to take advantage of the gains from trade and specialization, and thereby facilitating cooperation. Individuals adhere to institutional rules because they gain by doing so. Because the individual gains are inseparable from the structure of the institutions, the institutions themselves necessarily become the focus of the analysis—as we see in the new institutional economics (NIE). The new group selection position in biology involves a similar shift in focus from the level of the individual to the group when studying the evolution of altruism. But some of the proponents of group selection go further, arguing that altruism in biology evolves because it is in the interest of the group, but not the individual. In fact, group level analysis is necessary in biology, as in the NIE, because it allows for the discovery of ‘institutions’ that constrain cheating, opportunistic behavior, etc., thereby making participation in the group in the long-run self-interest of the individual. Copyright Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000
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