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  • bjbjLULU JEFFREY BROWN: Now, what does the work of naturalist Charles Darwin have to

  • do with economics? NewsHour economics correspondent Paul Solman finds out. It's part of his regular

  • reporting on Making Sense of financial news. PAUL SOLMAN: There's an idea war being waged

  • over American economics. The left contends that greed and the market have become malign

  • influences which must be brought to heel. The right, which blames government for most

  • of what ails us, has a more positive view of greed. As Cornell economist Bob Frank puts

  • it: ROBERT FRANK, Cornell University: The self-serving actions of greedy individuals

  • will be channeled by market forces to produce the greatest good for all. PAUL SOLMAN: And

  • so the right swears by the simple, invisible hand of free market competition, summed up

  • here in simplistic graphics perhaps, but 18th century British thinker Adam Smith's own timeless

  • words. MAN: "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker that

  • we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest." PAUL SOLMAN: Smith

  • is widely regarded as the father of economics. But in a new book, Bob Frank says that honor

  • should go instead to another British subject. ROBERT FRANK: A hundred years from now, if

  • people poll professional economists, people like me, and ask, who's the founder of your

  • discipline, most people are going to say Charles Darwin. PAUL SOLMAN: Charles Darwin? Mr. Evolution?

  • Yes, claims Frank, who met us at the touring Darwin exhibit now at Atlanta's Fernbank Museum

  • of Natural History. ROBERT FRANK: So, if we think about an animal like the rhea here,

  • how does it get away from predators if it can't fly the way other birds can? Well, it's

  • got to outrun them. PAUL SOLMAN: Of course, as Darwin and Frank both acknowledge, competition

  • is, in fact, one key to progress. ROBERT FRANK: And so, generation by generation, small mutations

  • contributed a little bit to the extra speed for an individual animal. That animal is less

  • likely to be caught and eaten by predators, and so it left copies of that mutation in

  • the next generation, and then it spread generation by generation, until the bird is really quite

  • a racehorse. PAUL SOLMAN: And that is the survival of the fittest. ROBERT FRANK: That's

  • the invisible hand story. It's good for the individual bird to be fast, and rheas as a

  • species being fast is good for the species. It makes them less vulnerable to predators.

  • PAUL SOLMAN: Same with the keen eyesight of hawk -- the better their eyes, the better

  • their meals -- or the markings on these butterflies that mimic big bad owls, protecting them from

  • predators. Thus, the invisible hand of natural selection promotes the survival of the individual

  • and the prosperity of the species. In economic terms, this is the greatest good for the greatest

  • number, the grand achievements of a market economy, made possible by competitive individuals

  • like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, or Steve Jobs. But to Frank, the Darwin show also depicts

  • the dark side of competition, individuals vying in ways that stultify the species. In

  • the evolution of male elk, for example, the fight for females results in outsized antlers.

  • ROBERT FRANK: Having bigger ones than your rival made you more likely to win your fight.

  • And so every mutation that coded for larger antlers was very strongly favored. And they

  • grew generation by generation. We see bull elk now with antlers that are four feet across.

  • They weigh 40 pounds. That's great for doing battle with other bull elk, but it's horrible

  • if you get chased into a densely wooded area by a wolf. PAUL SOLMAN: You can't get out

  • of the forest. ROBERT FRANK: There's nowhere to turn, literally. That's a feature that

  • absolutely captures the conflict between individual and group. PAUL SOLMAN: But returning to Darwin

  • the economist, how does competitive evolution hurt the species known as Homo sapiens? Years

  • ago, Frank began thinking that we engage in the same sort of wasteful, self-defeating

  • contests that Darwin documented in other animals. In "The Winner-Take-All Society" in the mid-'90s,

  • a younger Bob Frank wrote and explained to us, that, though the use of strength-enhancing

  • steroids in sports was hurting the general health of athletes, for example, it was in

  • no way enhancing the game. ROBERT FRANK: But, from an individual point of view, it's compellingly

  • attractive to take the drug, because, otherwise, you don't land a spot on the team, you don't

  • have a shot at the NFL roster. PAUL SOLMAN: Frank's line of thinking continued to evolve.

  • The winners were separating from the rest in almost every field, and their sky-high

  • pay was fueling "Luxury Fever," his 1999 book where he warned of competitive, conspicuous

  • consumption among the super-rich, taunting and tempting us all. ROBERT FRANK: There's

  • no question but that we're in the midst of another Gilded Age. The robber barons had

  • accumulated great wealth, and they spent it in very visible ways. The cyber-barons of

  • today have accumulated great wealth, and they're spending it in visible ways. PAUL SOLMAN:

  • Ways so visible that those down the ladder began emulating them. And that's the downside

  • of conspicuous competition, says Frank. With humans, as with other animals, the survival

  • of the so-called fittest may come at a cost to the species as a whole. ROBERT FRANK: So,

  • in one species of seals, for example, 4 percent of the males sire 88 percent of all offspring.

  • That's like the rich get richer that we're seeing in modern society. And, so, I think

  • you see a very parallel processes. The sexual selection that arises from battles among males

  • in those species produces enormous, outsized animals with huge weaponry that's all self-canceling

  • in the end, wasteful. When you see incomes concentrating at the top of the income ladder,

  • as we have seen for the last three decades, then you see spending patterns that are essentially

  • a duplicate of the waste that Darwin saw. PAUL SOLMAN: And that's what you call luxury

  • fever. ROBERT FRANK: Exactly. If everyone builds a mansion twice as big, that just raises

  • the bar that defines how big a mansion rich people feel they need. They build bigger because

  • they have more money. People just below them who travel in the same social circles, their

  • frame of reference shifts. They have got to build bigger, too, and it cascades all the

  • way down. PAUL SOLMAN: And why is that a problem? ROBERT FRANK: If you have to spend 50 percent

  • more on a house and you don't have more money, that's a short explanation of why conditions

  • confronting the middle class have gotten more difficult in the last 30 years. PAUL SOLMAN:

  • No wonder there's so much discontent, so bitterly felt, from the other 99 percent on the left

  • to the Tea Party on the right. Though Bob Frank is usually identified with the left,

  • he was a devout deregulator when he served in government. And he thinks that, for all

  • their earnestness, both sides are missing the essential message of Charles Darwin, that

  • there are two sides to economics: the invisible hand of market competition, to be sure, making

  • us faster, keener, safer, but also the helping hand of the community in the form of government

  • to restrain ourselves when the competition starts costing more than it benefits. ROBERT

  • FRANK: The political conversation these days seems to be dominated by the idea that, if

  • the society tries to act collectively, it's always going to make matters worse. But you

  • can't just turn selfish people loose and hope for the best. In those cases, both in nature

  • and in the marketplace, you get very bad results oftentimes. PAUL SOLMAN: So then yours is

  • the message of the benevolent economist, if you will, who says both left and right are,

  • in some fundamental sense, wrong because they don't understand both the value of the market

  • from the left and the importance of government from the right? ROBERT FRANK: That's exactly

  • the point of the argument, yes, that -- that there really is much more to the market than

  • its critics realize, and the people who say government can do no good for the society

  • are way off base. They don't understand the fundamental conflict that often arises between

  • individuals and groups. PAUL SOLMAN: To Bob Frank, then, as to Charles Darwin, success

  • is a balance between the urge to cooperate and the impulse to compete, a balance in the

  • origin of our species and in its continued evolution. JEFFREY BROWN: The Charles Darwin

  • exhibit is on view at the Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta through Jan.

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チャールズ・ダーウィンは経済学の父でもあったのか? (Was Charles Darwin the Father of Economics as Well?)

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    姚姚 に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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