To read the real thing in evolution - to read, say, John Maynard Smith's Evolution and the Theory of Games, or William Hamilton's new book of collected papers, Narrow Roads in Gene Land, is a startling experience to someone whose previous idea of evolution comes from magazine articles and popular books. The field does not look at all like the stories. What it does look like, to a remarkable degree, is - dare I say it? - neoclassical economics. And it offers very little comfort to those who want a refuge from the harsh discipline of maximization and equilibrium.[...]
Personally, I consider myself a proud neoclassicist. By this I clearly don't mean that I believe in perfect competition all the way. What I mean is that I prefer, when I can, to make sense of the world using models in which individuals maximize and the interaction of these individuals can be summarized by some concept of equilibrium. The reason I like that kind of model is not that I believe it to be literally true, but that I am intensely aware of the power of maximization-and-equilibrium to organize one's thinking - and I have seen the propensity of those who try to do economics without those organizing devices to produce sheer nonsense when they imagine they are freeing themselves from some confining orthodoxy.
December 18, 2006
Evolution and neoclassical economics
Paul Krugman said: