The Darwin Economy: Liberty, Competition, and the Common Good [New in Paper]

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Overview

"I've been reading Robert Frank's books for years, and he just gets better and better. I strongly recommend The Darwin Economy: it's clear, persuasive, and cleverly entertaining, and it provides a new and original insight about a central issue in economics. Read and enjoy."—Thomas C. Schelling, Nobel Laureate in Economics

"The Darwin Economy debunks popular nostrums of both left and right, and takes particular aim at the notion that a well-functioning competitive market system will necessarily produce socially optimal results. Frank suggests novel approaches to America's problems that go well beyond the tired ideas of the present debate."—Francis Fukuyama, author of The Origins of Political Order

"Competition often serves the parts better than the whole. This is true for both species evolution and human society. Only a fool would count on the invisible hand. In his usual clearheaded and lively style, Robert Frank explains how Charles Darwin thought more deeply about these issues than most contemporary economists."—Frans de Waal, author of The Age of Empathy and Our Inner Ape

"Pointing to new ways of thinking about collective action and taxation, Robert Frank has given us a book that is as important as it is timely."—Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational

"The Darwin Economy's message is in my view the only hope for a rational economic future."—William J. Baumol, past president, American Economic Association

"This lucid, deeply engaging book provides the perfect antidote to the mindless sloganeering that dominates our current discussions about the role of government in a free society."—Dani Rodrik, author of The Globalization Paradox

"Robert Frank convincingly predicts that Darwin will eventually be recognized as the true intellectual father of economics. After you read The Darwin Economy, you'll want this prediction to come true as soon as possible."—David Sloan Wilson, author of Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives

"Pondering the implications of Darwinian theory, and rejecting the received wisdom of libertarian and left-wing pundits alike, Robert Frank convincingly lays out economic policies that will benefit the rich, the poor, and the broader society."—Howard Gardner, author of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness Reframed

"Human beings cooperate. Markets help. That's Adam Smith. Human beings also compete: not just for resources, but for relative position in the mating game. That's Darwin. Add Darwin to Adam Smith, and you get Robert Frank, and a book full of dazzling insight."—Mark Kleiman, author of When Brute Force Fails

"Robert Frank is a national treasure in our discussions about public policy. He shows here that our understanding of economics needs to be informed more by a sophisticated interpretation of Charles Darwin than by a simplistic view of Adam Smith. Given the state of our politics, this latest dose of Frank advice deserves to be widely read."—Robert D. Putnam, author of Bowling Alone and American Grace

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Editorial Reviews

Journal of Bioeconomics
[Frank's] arguments are carefully crafted and artfully presented to make the case that since we're in the business of designing society from top down anyway we might as well go whole hog and do it right.
— Michael Shermer
New York Times
Important.
— Nicholas D. Kristof
New York Review of Books
Robert Frank's The Darwin Economy . . . provide(s) much-needed information and analysis to explain why so much of the nation's money is flowing upward. Frank, an economist at Cornell, draws on social psychology to shatter many myths about competition and compensation.
— Andrew Hacker
New Republic's The Avenue blog
[An] excellent new book . . .
— Jonathan Rothwell
Nature
The premise of economist Adam Smith's 'invisible hand'—a tenet of market economics—is that competitive self-interest shunts benefits to the community. But that is the exception rather than the rule, argues writer Robert H. Frank. Charles Darwin's idea of natural selection is a more accurate reflection of how economic competition works . . . because individual and species benefits do not always coincide. Highlighting reasons for market failure and the need to cut waste, Frank argues that we can domesticate our wild economy by taxing higher-end spending and harmful industrial emissions.
Financial Times
[I]mpressive, original and thoughtful.
— Tim Harford
Biz Ed
[The Darwin Economy] is a smart, complex, and thoughtful book that will make many readers view the dismal science in a wholly different way.
Reuters
[P]rovocative. . . . Frank is an economist for the rest of us. . . . [T]he Darwin Economy . . . focus[es] on one paradox of economic life: behavior which makes sense for a particular individual can harm the community as a whole.
— Chrystia Freeland
Times Higher Education
Frank's worthy and unfashionable aim is to argue the economic case for some forms of government regulation, to defend taxation, and even to advocate certain forms of tax increase.
— Howard Davies
National Review Online's The Agenda
[V]ery illuminating.
— Matthew Shaffer
lving Economics blog

Frank's argument is a strong critique of the neo-classical view of the market and unlike many liberal critiques, does not rely on arguments about market imperfections, dominant powers, information asymmetries or irrationality. . . . [T]he Darwin Economy provides an important argument that must be addressed by any libertarian.
American Prospect
Frank's book is peppered with examples of how actions that improve the well-being of the individual harm the collectivity. . . . [B]rave and welcome . . .
— Robert Kuttner
Commonweal
The practical implications of Frank's insight are quite broad. . . . Frank manages to write breezily and with a minimum of jargon. His book deserves wide readership among people who suspect that something has gone drastically wrong with the economy.
— Charles R. Morris
Arab News
Applying Darwin to economics provides new ways of thinking about taxation and the role of government in a free society. It also reminds economists and bankers how much they have neglected the humble wisdom with which they must confront uncertainty.
ForeWord
Frank makes a compelling argument against the libertarian view that government should not interfere with individual liberty by forcing us to buy safety or insurance, via taxation. . . . His book is a welcome addition to a field that is in need of more economists and political theorists who challenge the status quo and explore concepts of justice in the spirit of John Rawls and Michael Sandel.
European Voice
Reading this book will . . . provide a useful counterpoint to EU discussion about fiscal austerity and the importance of solidarity in the EU budget. Whether you start on the left or the right this book invites some re-thinking.
Choice
Frank is one of the most interesting economists regularly writing for the public. Serious scholars across the social sciences will learn a lot from this book.
Democracy: A Journal of Ideas
[T]he Darwin Economy is noteworthy for its very acrobatic devotion to some—any—model that would seem well positioned to supplant the invisible hand as the prime mover of economic life in market societies. Instead of simply noting the abundant empirical failures of free-market theorizing for what they are—and thereby placing the burden of accountability on the small-government apostles of deregulation—Frank opts for the centrist dodge of trimming the differences between the excesses of libertarian dogma on the one hand and the reflexes of an allegedly Naderite, intervention-happy left cadre of government bureaucrats on the other.
— Chris Lehmann
GrrlScientist
This is an intelligent and well-written book that will certainly inspire you [to] think about economics in a different way to what you did before. . . . I think students of economics, evolutionary theory and anyone with interests in these areas will benefit greatly by reading and thinking about the arguments presented in this book.
— Devorah Bennu
Business Today Egypt
The Darwin Economy competes against libertarianism, modern economics and laissez-faire models—its robust arguments succeed, hailing Charles Darwin as a general theorist of competition-driven economics. . . . [A] . . . necessary read.
— Robert Terpstra
Democracy: A Journal of Ideas

[T]he Darwin Economy is noteworthy for its very acrobatic devotion to some--any--model that would seem well positioned to supplant the invisible hand as the prime mover of economic life in market societies. Instead of simply noting the abundant empirical failures of free-market theorizing for what they are--and thereby placing the burden of accountability on the small-government apostles of deregulation--Frank opts for the centrist dodge of trimming the differences between the excesses of libertarian dogma on the one hand and the reflexes of an allegedly Naderite, intervention-happy left cadre of government bureaucrats on the other.
— Chris Lehmann
Journal of Economic Issues
This is an important book that brings together three decades of research and writing by the author to better understand the nature of our modern economy and to provide policy recommendations. . . . [Y]ou will benefit from reading this book.
— Ronnie J. Phillips
Kelvingrove Review
I have no problems recommending The Darwin Economy especially to non-academics with an interest in economics and to undergraduate students of economics. Seasoned researchers wi1l find some of Frank's more provocative arguments of interest, but it is clearly aimed at nonexperts. Frank's book is enjoyable to read, it is insightful and insightful, and on balance it is a dear force for good amongst popular economic discourse.
— Rory Fairweather
Skeptic magazine
In this brilliant book, Robert H. Frank does much more than remind us that taxes pay for essential public services.
— Jon Wainwright
Journal of Bioeconomics - Michael Shermer
[Frank's] arguments are carefully crafted and artfully presented to make the case that since we're in the business of designing society from top down anyway we might as well go whole hog and do it right.
New York Times - Nicholas D. Kristof
Important.
New York Review of Books - Andrew Hacker
Robert Frank's The Darwin Economy . . . provide(s) much-needed information and analysis to explain why so much of the nation's money is flowing upward. Frank, an economist at Cornell, draws on social psychology to shatter many myths about competition and compensation.
New Republic's The Avenue blog - Jonathan Rothwell
[An] excellent new book . . .
Financial Times - Tim Harford
[I]mpressive, original and thoughtful.
Reuters - Chrystia Freeland
[P]rovocative. . . . Frank is an economist for the rest of us. . . . [T]he Darwin Economy . . . focus[es] on one paradox of economic life: behavior which makes sense for a particular individual can harm the community as a whole.
Times Higher Education - Howard Davies
Frank's worthy and unfashionable aim is to argue the economic case for some forms of government regulation, to defend taxation, and even to advocate certain forms of tax increase.
National Review Online's The Agenda - Matthew Shaffer
[V]ery illuminating.
American Prospect - Robert Kuttner
Frank's book is peppered with examples of how actions that improve the well-being of the individual harm the collectivity. . . . [B]rave and welcome . . .
Commonweal - Charles R. Morris
The practical implications of Frank's insight are quite broad. . . . Frank manages to write breezily and with a minimum of jargon. His book deserves wide readership among people who suspect that something has gone drastically wrong with the economy.
Democracy: A Journal of Ideas - Chris Lehmann
[T]he Darwin Economy is noteworthy for its very acrobatic devotion to some—any—model that would seem well positioned to supplant the invisible hand as the prime mover of economic life in market societies. Instead of simply noting the abundant empirical failures of free-market theorizing for what they are—and thereby placing the burden of accountability on the small-government apostles of deregulation—Frank opts for the centrist dodge of trimming the differences between the excesses of libertarian dogma on the one hand and the reflexes of an allegedly Naderite, intervention-happy left cadre of government bureaucrats on the other.
GrrlScientist - Devorah Bennu
This is an intelligent and well-written book that will certainly inspire you [to] think about economics in a different way to what you did before. . . . I think students of economics, evolutionary theory and anyone with interests in these areas will benefit greatly by reading and thinking about the arguments presented in this book.
Business Today Egypt - Robert Terpstra
The Darwin Economy competes against libertarianism, modern economics and laissez-faire models—its robust arguments succeed, hailing Charles Darwin as a general theorist of competition-driven economics. . . . [A] . . . necessary read.
Journal of Economic Issues - Ronnie J. Phillips
This is an important book that brings together three decades of research and writing by the author to better understand the nature of our modern economy and to provide policy recommendations. . . . [Y]ou will benefit from reading this book.
Kelvingrove Review - Rory Fairweather
I have no problems recommending The Darwin Economy especially to non-academics with an interest in economics and to undergraduate students of economics. Seasoned researchers wi1l find some of Frank's more provocative arguments of interest, but it is clearly aimed at nonexperts. Frank's book is enjoyable to read, it is insightful and insightful, and on balance it is a dear force for good amongst popular economic discourse.
Skeptic magazine - Jon Wainwright
In this brilliant book, Robert H. Frank does much more than remind us that taxes pay for essential public services.
LSE Politics & Policy blog iel Sage

The Darwin Economy fundamentally challenges this theory of competition which, argues Frank, is a flawed way of understanding competitive forces throughout many aspects of economic life. . . . Frank adds something new to the debate. . . . [H]e offers a powerful theoretical insight into the nature of competitive economic forces and the free market. . . . [I]t is an insight we could all potentially benefit from.
From the Publisher
"This is an intelligent and well-written book that will certainly inspire you [to] think about economics in a different way to what you did before. . . . I think students of economics, evolutionary theory and anyone with interests in these areas will benefit greatly by reading and thinking about the arguments presented in this book."—Devorah Bennu, GrrlScientist (hosted by The Guardian)

"The Darwin Economy competes against libertarianism, modern economics and laissez-faire models—its robust arguments succeed, hailing Charles Darwin as a general theorist of competition-driven economics. . . . [A] . . . necessary read."—Robert Terpstra, Business Today Egypt

"This is an important book that brings together three decades of research and writing by the author to better understand the nature of our modern economy and to provide policy recommendations. . . . [Y]ou will benefit from reading this book."—Ronnie J. Phillips, Journal of Economic Issues

"I have no problems recommending The Darwin Economy especially to non-academics with an interest in economics and to undergraduate students of economics. Seasoned researchers wi1l find some of Frank's more provocative arguments of interest, but it is clearly aimed at nonexperts. Frank's book is enjoyable to read, it is insightful and insightful, and on balance it is a dear force for good amongst popular economic discourse."—Rory Fairweather, Kelvingrove Review

"In this brilliant book, Robert H. Frank does much more than remind us that taxes pay for essential public services."—Jon Wainwright, Skeptic magazine

From the Publisher

"This is an intelligent and well-written book that will certainly inspire you [to] think about economics in a different way to what you did before. . . . I think students of economics, evolutionary theory and anyone with interests in these areas will benefit greatly by reading and thinking about the arguments presented in this book."--Devorah Bennu, GrrlScientist (hosted by The Guardian)

"The Darwin Economy competes against libertarianism, modern economics and laissez-faire models--its robust arguments succeed, hailing Charles Darwin as a general theorist of competition-driven economics. . . . [A] . . . necessary read."--Robert Terpstra, Business Today Egypt

"This is an important book that brings together three decades of research and writing by the author to better understand the nature of our modern economy and to provide policy recommendations. . . . [Y]ou will benefit from reading this book."--Ronnie J. Phillips, Journal of Economic Issues

"I have no problems recommending The Darwin Economy especially to non-academics with an interest in economics and to undergraduate students of economics. Seasoned researchers wi1l find some of Frank's more provocative arguments of interest, but it is clearly aimed at nonexperts. Frank's book is enjoyable to read, it is insightful and insightful, and on balance it is a dear force for good amongst popular economic discourse."--Rory Fairweather, Kelvingrove Review

"In this brilliant book, Robert H. Frank does much more than remind us that taxes pay for essential public services."--Jon Wainwright, Skeptic magazine

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691156682
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 9/16/2012
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 264
  • Sales rank: 792,444
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert H. Frank is an economics professor at Cornell's Johnson Graduate School of Management, a regular "Economic View" columnist for the "New York Times", and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Demos. His books, which have been translated into twenty-two languages, include "The Winner-Take-All Society" (with Philip Cook), "The Economic Naturalist, Luxury Fever, What Price the Moral High Ground?", and "Principles of Economics" (with Ben Bernanke).

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Table of Contents

Preface ix
Chapter 1 Paralysis 1
Chapter 2 Darwin's Wedge 16
Chapter 3 No Cash on the Table 30
Chapter 4 Starve the Beast—But Which One? 46
Chapter 5 Putting the Positional Consumption Beast on a Diet 64
Chapter 6 Perpetrators and Victims 84
Chapter 7 Efficiency Rules 100
Chapter 8 "It's Your Money . . ." 119
Chapter 9 Success and Luck 140
Chapter 10 The Great Trade-Off? 157
Chapter 11 Taxing Harmful Activities 172
Chapter 12 The Libertarian's Objections Reconsidered 194
Afterword to the Paperback Edition 217
Notes 223
Index 235

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 14, 2011

    Some good ideas; some not so good

    Shows good insight on some aspects of the economy, but his advocating a progressive consumption tax is a pathetically bad idea. As a tax specialist, who has prepared roughly 10,000 tax returns, I could think of myriad ways in which to thwart such a tax, so the tax burden would inevitably fall hardest on those who were less fortunate.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 29, 2011

    Some Interesting Ideas

    Frank challenges many of the age old assumptions about economics and has some very interesting ideas that will make you rethink yours, but turns into a bit of an anti-libertarian rant towards the end

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 22, 2011

    Excited about this book

    I just listended to a great podcast on this book between Bob Frank and Russ Roberts (EconTalk). B&N isn't allowing me to include a link, but it is an easy web search.

    For full disclosure, I had Professor Frank in graduate business school.

    While I disagreeing with Professor Frank often, I believe his discussion on this book is refreshingly new. If the book is half as good as his podcast with Russ Roberts (link above), then I will be pleased. I will write another

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 20, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    An economist¿s eloquent plea for better government

    Philosopher Adam Smith himself was skeptical about the real-world results of his “invisible hand,” but you’d never know it by the way modern-day free market fundamentalists try to push every regulation out of the way. As Cornell economist Robert H. Frank notes in his assault on the ideological force field that has blocked much US government action, naturalist Charles Darwin identified the problem: Evolutionary incentives benefit individuals, not groups. Frank uses that insight to argue that government must abridge some personal gains for the greater good. Frank is an economics professor, and his book sometimes falls into a challenging didacticism. But he writes with admirable clarity and verve, and – while his prediction that the world will one day recognize Darwin as the father of economics is perhaps a reach – he has done nothing less than provide a fresh intellectual foundation for progressivism. While always politically neutral, getAbstract recommends Frank’s treatise to lawmakers, economists, historians and civic-minded professionals who are concerned with the large questions society must tackle.

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    Posted April 22, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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