Evolutionary Economics?

Last Friday’s PBS News Hour aired a discussion with an economics professor who “normally” espoused “leftist views” on economics. But his take on the “Darwinism” of economics was hilarious. Does everyone want a mansion who currently rents an apartment? Is the “Occupy Wall Street” movement really about class envy? Wow! And do currently anti-competitive business interests really for competition just to prove how well they can come out ahead? I didn’t catch this professor’s name but that was truly a lame apologia for what’s going on today.

Quite frankly, I doubt that Charles Darwin would be very pleased with this latest misuse of his biological theories. Unlike adaptive mutations, the marketplace is a social construct like all others. And it is effected for the good or the ill like all other social constructs by the choices we make. The economic melt down of 2008 that ushered in a new Democratic administration, the lingering recession that followed, that made possible a GOP resurgence by 2010; had nothing to do with what this professor tried to claim was Darwinian in concept. Only a few people could have afforded to build bigger and more palatial mansions. Only a few people could have afforded yachts of a size to rival ocean liners. Everyone else would have been considered lucky to have a home to call their own and income sufficient to pay for the mortgage, etc.

I didn’t catch this professor’s name and quite frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised that he has his critics. But any such criticisms as they may espouse would have just as badly missed the point as this professor’s thesis had. The “Occupy Wall Street” movement isn’t screaming for mansions when they complain about greed, corruption in government, corporations aren’t “people,” etc.; they are complaining about the politics that continues to drive this nation toward the cliff. For what faults they may have as well as the fringe elements they have attracted, they do express legitimate concerns for the future of this country and the next generation to follow.

But, on the other hand, maybe the GOP contenders for the U.S. Presidency, as well as the GOP members of Congress bought into this professor’s “economic argument.” From small businesses to major corporations (they can’t be very competitive if) 1. Taxes are too high, 2. Unions are involved, 3. Regulations are to onerous. So, in the process of “avoiding all of that,” major corporations in particular hand all possible marketplace advantage to “cheap labor” countries such as China. The “I just want the money” point of view out of all of the above isn’t Darwinian in nature. That’s just greed. So, out of all this, I’d just have to say, professor, don’t waste your breath trying to make excuses for the choice of people to do wrong things. They really don’t need any more justification for why they insist on screwing around with their fellow human beings. And certainly (taxes, unions, regulations—the elimination thereof) won’t guarantee survival on the economic level any way. Not when we are looking at a chronic tendency to self-destruct in the human psyche as it is.

That is why Darwin doesn’t work when it comes to trying to explain away or even justify why people do what they do. Unlike animals who’s very survival comes from mutant traits that make it more likely to escape their predators, humans operate on a moral or not so moral premise. Unlike animals, we determine our survival by what we do, and we determine our actions by our decisions. So yes, this professor can add me to his list of critics. Perhaps evolution made a “smart man” (homo sapiens) out of an ape-like ancestor, but in today’s society, we literally deplore being “smart” about anything. That’s inclusive of the marketplace (the driving force of the American economic picture) and politics. So, since Darwin can’t be held to account for homo stupidus, then I guess we need to blame ourselves for the decision we made to take our “evolutionary development” south. And aceept the responsibilty for the consequences to follow.

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