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When Ideas Have Sex

How free exchange between people
increases prosperity and trust
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In his 1776 work An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Scottish moral philosopher Adam Smith identified the cause in a single variable: “the propensity to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another.” Today we call this free trade or market capitalism, and since the recession it has become de rigueur to dis the system as corrupt, rotten or deeply flawed.

If we pull back and take a long-horizon perspective, however, the free exchange between people of goods, services and especially ideas leads to trust between strangers and prosperity for more people. Think of it as ideas having sex. That is what zoologist and science writer Matt Ridley calls it in his book The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves. Ridley is optimistic that “the world will pull out of the current crisis because of the way that markets in goods, services and ideas allow human beings to exchange and specialize honestly for the betterment of all.” (continue reading…)

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Authors @ Google presents Michael Shermer

Michael Shermer discusses his book The Mind of the Market as part of the Authors @ Google series.

How did we evolve from ancient hunter-gatherers to modern consumer-traders? Why are people so irrational when it comes to money and business? Dr. Michael Shermer argues that evolution provides an answer to both of these questions through the new science of evolutionary economics. Drawing on research from neuroeconomics, Shermer explores what brain scans reveal about bargaining, snap purchases, and how trust is established in business. Utilizing experiments in behavioral economics, Shermer shows why people hang on to losing stocks and failing companies, (continue reading…)

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Why We Should Trade with Cuba

The new science of neuroeconomics offers
new insights into old political problems

The 19th-century French economist Frederic Bastiat expressed a principle applicable in the 21st century: “Where goods do not cross frontiers, armies will.”

In my new book, The Mind of the Market, I describe in detail how in the modern world of nation states, economic sanctions are among the first steps taken by one nation against another when political diplomacy fails, as when the United States enforced them on Japan after its invasion of China in the 1930s, and these became a prelude (among other factors) to Japan’s retaliatory bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 and our involvement in the greatest war in history. More recently, economic sanctions were imposed by the U.S. and Japan on India following its 1998 nuclear tests, and more recently by the U.S. on Cuba, Iran, and North Korea. (continue reading…)

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The Mind of the Market on Tour

Michael Shermer read from and talked about his new book, The Mind of the Market, at various venues during his book tour in January 2008. Shermer discussed how economic and evolutionary theory speak the same language, and how our hardwired human biology affects modern economics. READ MORE about the book

National Capital Area Skeptics, Arlington, VA (January 12th, 2008)

LISTEN to part 1 (audio podcast)
LISTEN to part 2 (audio podcast)

Tattered Cover, Denver, CO (January 17th, 2008)

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Evonomics

Evolution and economics are both examples
of a larger mysterious phenomenon
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Living along the Orioco River that borders Brazil and Venezuela are the Yanomamö people, hunter-gatherers whose average annual income has been estimated at the equivalent of $90 per person per year. Living along the Hudson River that borders New York State and New Jersey are the Manhattan people, consumer- traders whose average annual income has been estimated at $36,000 per person per year. That dramatic difference of 400 times, however, pales in comparison to the differences in Stock Keeping Units (SKUs, a retail measure of the number of types of products available), which has been estimated at 300 for the Yanomamö and 10 billion for the Manhattans, a difference of 33 million times! (continue reading…)

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