Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Good News

"The divorce between an interest in the psychological and cultural foundations of economic life and an interest in the consequences of economic interaction has been a peculiar feature of professional economics during the second half of the twentieth century ..." So writes Paul Seabright (p. 100) in The Company of Strangers: A Natural History of Economic Life. Many fine authors, including Seabright and Deepak Lal and Paul Rubin and others, have been working hard to reconcile the fields.

Geography and selection (nothing succeeds like success) can safely be taken as exogenous (Jared Diamond). It then becomes possible to say interesting things about how endogenous genetics, psychology and political economy interact.

Through history, groups coalesce, organize, and hill-climb, often to gain local optima. Local optima may be precarious and eventually give way -- sometimes, at great cost, including wars, revolutions and oppressions.

So, good news and bad news. But perhaps the bottom line is the following: " ... across the world, the average risk of violence faced by the world's citizens is almost as low as it has even been in our history" (p. 246). May it last.