The Darwin Economy- Liberty, Competition, and the Common Good

Review :

The Darwin Economy is an intellectual page-turner. It is one of the few thoughtful challenges to libertarian ideas I have read. The book is structured as a logical argument about positional goods--those things that are only beneficial relative to what others have. For example, running a fast time in a race is only important in relation to the other runners--were you the fastest Did you win the race Similarly, many things related to status and power that humans pursue are only valued relative to others. These goods fall into a strange trap whereby the traditional invisible hand of Adam Smith actually causes poorer outcomes than a well-regulated outcome.

I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in liberal or libertarian ideas, because it deals with them fairly and explores a potential pitfall of libertarianism. The text itself is rather short (about 180 pages), and once you have grasped the core argument, Frank doesn't introduce a ton of corollaries but just continues to flesh out his idea. However, reading his argument deeply does give a sense of how carefully he has reasoned. What is interesting about this book is that it specifies an instance where the invisible hand of the market does not work. Anyone who can raise a legitimate critique of Adam Smith deserves our attention.


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