Tuesday, February 22, 2005

I've got trucking and bartering in my blood

Cato's Will Wilkinson, as entertaining as usual, on the evolutionary roots of capitalism:

Trade and mutually beneficial exchange are human universals, as is the division of labor. In their groundbreaking paper, "Cognitive Adaptations for Social Exchange," Cosmides and Tooby point out that, contrary to widespread belief, hunter-gatherer life is not "a kind of retro-utopia" of "indiscriminate, egalitarian cooperation and sharing." The archeological and ethnographic evidence shows that hunter-gatherers were involved in numerous forms of trade and exchange. Some forms of hunter-gatherer trading can involve quite complex specialization and the interaction of supply and demand.

Most impressive, Cosmides and Tooby have shown through a series of experiments that human beings are able easily to solve complex logical puzzles involving reciprocity, the accounting of costs and benefits, and the detection of people who have cheated on agreements. However, we are unable to solve formally identical puzzles that do not deal with questions of social exchange. That, they argue, points to the existence of "functionally specialized, content-dependent cognitive adaptations for social exchange."

In other words, the human mind is "built" to trade.

So the New York Stock Exchange is not a testament to our status as the most advanced civilization in the Earth's history, but merely the equivalent of a caveman's grunt? Well, at least now we can blame *corporate greed* on ... genetics.

1 comment:

marco said...

Or, another way to see the US’s incredible wealth and prosperity is as testament to the law of the land maximizing and facilitating our innate ability for capitalism.