Re: “Charles Darwin the Economist,” LA Times: Opinion, October 18
Robert Frank argues that “Darwin’s understanding of competition makes clear there can be no presumption it promotes the common good” since it often “provokes wasteful, mutually offsetting arms races.”
Frank confuses the goals of evolutionary competition with those of market competition. Market actors compete to supply goods and services for consumers. As Adam Smith saw, they are then forced to innovate for the common good, which reduces prices and increases quality. By contrast, organisms compete for individual reproduction. This promotes innovations, but only those that benefit the individual, not society. Frank even describes both processes accurately. Unforgivably, he still equates them.
Of course markets aren’t perfect—no more than people are. But they are, as Adam Smith said, guided by the invisible hand of consumer choice. By contrast, nothing but politicians’ arbitrary whims guides government.