Don't Bother with "The Darwin Economy"

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I purchased The Darwin Economy: Liberty, Competition, and the Common Good by Robert Frank thinking I would learn something. I did. I learned that I should not have purchased it.

Frank takes a very simple game theory used to explain the arms race (and naively applies it to elk antlers, arguing that one elk grows big antlers and gets all the cows so that others must also grow such big ones to compete), applies it to market competition, and concludes that competition can lead to bad things for the group as a whole.  In the case of elk, he claims that large elk antlers make elk as a species worse off because the antlers make it difficult for the bull elk to run through the woods and therefore more susceptible to wolf predation; obviously he has never seen a bull lay his head back so that the antlers are tucked neatly against his back and ribs and run through the thickest trees; never seen a bull use the antlers for defense against wolves; and doesn't ask how it is that elk are thriving by moving to more open spaces in the presence of wolves--spaces which they occupied before human pressure moved them to the mountains. Finally, Frank argues that taxes can fix the problems--and yes, of course, most importantly the problem of global warming. No data, no theory, no knowledge of wild species, but lots of rhetorical arguments.

Save your money, and if you get a complimentary copy, save your time by not reading it.

Terry Anderson is the William A. Dunn Distinguished Senior Fellow and former President and Executive Director of PERC as well as the John and Jean De Nault Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He believes that market approaches can be both economically sound and environmentally sensitive. His research helped launch the...
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