IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

The Bioeconomics of Cooperation


  • Adam Gifford



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

Suggested Citation

  • Adam Gifford, 2000. "The Bioeconomics of Cooperation," Journal of Bioeconomics, Springer, vol. 2(2), pages 153-168, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:jbioec:v:2:y:2000:i:2:p:153-168 DOI: 10.1023/A:1011466701827

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ellickson, Robert C, 1989. "A Hypothesis of Wealth-Maximizing Norms: Evidence from the Whaling Industry," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 5(1), pages 83-97, Spring.
    2. Demsetz, Harold, 1988. "The Theory of the Firm Revisited," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 4(1), pages 141-161, Spring.
    3. Klein, Benjamin & Crawford, Robert G & Alchian, Armen A, 1978. "Vertical Integration, Appropriable Rents, and the Competitive Contracting Process," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(2), pages 297-326, October.
    4. Williamson, Oliver E, 1988. "The Logic of Economic Organization," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 4(1), pages 65-93, Spring.
    5. repec:mes:jeciss:v:30:y:1996:i:4:p:1212-1216 is not listed on IDEAS
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Geoffrey Hodgson, 2007. "Taxonomizing the Relationship Between Biology and Economics: A Very Long Engagement," Journal of Bioeconomics, Springer, vol. 9(2), pages 169-185, August.
    2. Deby Cassill & Benjamin Hardisty & Alison Watkins, 2011. "A 4D natural selection model illuminates the enigma of altruism in the Shedao pit viper," Journal of Bioeconomics, Springer, vol. 13(1), pages 17-29, April.
    3. Peter Corning, 2007. "Synergy Goes to War: A Bioeconomic Theory of Collective Violence," Journal of Bioeconomics, Springer, vol. 9(2), pages 109-144, August.
    4. Howard Margolis, 2004. "Cognition and Extended (NSNX) Rational Choice: Some Early Results," Journal of Bioeconomics, Springer, vol. 6(3), pages 295-316, September.
    5. Deby Cassill & Alison Watkins, 2010. "The evolution of cooperative hierarchies through natural selection processes," Journal of Bioeconomics, Springer, vol. 12(1), pages 29-42, April.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:kap:jbioec:v:2:y:2000:i:2:p:153-168. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Sonal Shukla) or (Rebekah McClure). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.