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How Similar Are Natural Selection and Market Competition?
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Topic description / abstract:

Many believe that what Adam Smith said about the improving power of market competition is similar to what Darwin said about the improving power of natural selection. But how similar are Smith's and Darwin's ideas really? To answer this question, I'll compare two "fundamental" theorems—the fundamental theorem of natural selection and the first fundamental theorem of welfare economics. The theorems have more in common than their names; I have chosen to compare them because they are often taken to precisify (respectively) the way in which selection and market competition can lead to improvement. After characterizing the sense in which the theorems are indeed similar, I go on to show that the theorems' idealizations obscure some important points of contact between Smith's ideas and Darwin's, particularly concerning the benefits of division of labor.


Biographical note:

Brian McLoone works primarily in philosophy of biology. At the moment, he is working on a project about the relationship between natural selection and ideas in political economy and also on a project concerning how to logically represent counterfactual reasoning in science. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2016, and he is currently an instructor at Auburn University (USA).