Towards an Economics of Evolution, Emergence, and Innovation

Greg Daneke, Emeritus Prof.
6 min readJun 21, 2023

The only function of Economic Forecasting is to make Astrology look respectable. John Kenneth Galbraith

Page after page of professional economic journals are filled with mathematical formulas leading the reader from sets of more or less plausible but entirely arbitrary assumptions to precisely stated but irrelevant theoretical conclusions. Wassily Leontief

The men of the sciences that are proud to own themselves modern find fault with economists for being still content to occupy themselves with repairing a structure and doctrines and maxims resting on natural rights, utilitarianism, and administrative expediency. Thorstein Veblen

The new approach [complexity economics] is not just an extension of standard economics, nor does it consist of adding agent-based behavior to standard models. It gives a different, nonequilibrium view of the economy: one where actions and strategies constantly evolve, where time becomes important, where structures constantly form and re-form… This view gives us a world closer to that of political economy than to neoclassical theory, a world that is organic, evolutionary and historically-contingent. Brian Arthur

Can Economics Be More Scientific Than Scientology?

When it comes to light bulb jokes, the standard answer for how many economists is “none, the market will take care of it”. In our real world of highly rigged economies, the answer involves psychologists, where the answer is “only one, but the bulb must really want to change”. Nearly a century and a quarter ago, one leading figure in economics, Thorstein Veblen, asked a gathering of his learned colleagues “Why economics was not an evolutionary science”, which is to say why it is not doing science the way the other sciences were beginning to do it? I repeated Veblen’s question to economists who showed any tiny interest, as well as published a diatribe for my colleagues in the Real World Economics Association (https://www.worldeconomicsassociation.org/newsletterarticles/adaptive-systems/) a few years back, in light of advances in the study of Complex Adaptive Systems (or “Complexity Economics” for short). This group of orphaned heterodox economists originated with rebellious doctoral students at top European universities a few decades back and once held the cheeky label “post-autistic economics”. Okay, I was preaching to the choir, but hey mainstream economists were still not listening, despite their…

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Greg Daneke, Emeritus Prof.

Top Economics Writer. Gov. service, corp consulting, & faculty posts (e.g., Mich., Stanford, British Columbia). Piles of scholarly pubs & accasional diatribes.