Thursday, August 25, 2011

Preliminary Announcement of New Book by Robert Frank

Robert H. Frank, economics professor at Cornell's Johnson Graduate School of Management, has written a new book, The Darwin Economy:
 Liberty, Competition, and the Common Good
, Princeton University Press, to be published in September by Princeton University Press.

From the publisher’s advance notice, they kindly sent to me, we find this paragraph showing that Professor Frank misreads Adam Smith’s writings on competition and apparently forgets his writings on Moral Sentiments.

Instead he parades the usual, invented myth about the so-called Adam Smith ‘theory of the invisible hand’:

Smith's theory of the invisible hand, which says that competition channels self-interest for the common good, is probably the most widely cited argument today in favor of unbridled competition--and against regulation, taxation, and even government itself. But what if Smith's idea was almost an exception to the general rule of competition? That's what Frank argues, resting his case on Darwin's insight that individual and group interests often diverge sharply. Far from creating a perfect world, economic competition often leads to "arms races," encouraging behaviors that not only cause enormous harm to the group but also provide no lasting advantages for individuals, since any gains tend to be relative and mutually offsetting.”

Comment
On the basis that he gets a central core of his argument wrong about Adam Smith, I worry about the other basis of his argument about Charles Darwin on competition in natural selection.

I have not read the book yet but I shall review it on Lost Legacy for a final judgement (publisher’s blurbs are written their staff and are not totally reliable). Though the myth is now ubiquitous and endemic. I think it more likely that the myth will be dispensed with (see Warren Samuel's new book on the Invisible Hand that looks highly promising in this regard).

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2 Comments:

Blogger michael webster said...

I have a number of Frank's books, and I must say that I enjoy them. But, I find that there a critical gaps in the reasoning - love some of the conclusions, but don't see the roadmap in the book

3:16 a.m.  
Blogger Gavin Kennedy said...

Michael
i await a copy of the book from the publisher and I shall then comment upon it.
I am not impressed with the blurb I read, but I don't judge a book just by its blurb.

8:00 a.m.  

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