Bestselling author Michael Shermer explains how evolution shaped the modern economy—and why people are so irrational about money
How did we make the leap from ancient hunter-gatherers to modern consumers and traders? Why do people get so emotional and irrational about bottom-line financial and business decisions? Is the capitalist marketplace a sort of Darwinian organism, evolved through natural selection as the fittest way to satisfy our needs? In this eye-opening exploration, author and psychologist Michael Shermer uncovers the evolutionary roots of our economic behavior.
Drawing on the new field of neuroeconomics, Shermer investigates what brain scans reveal about bargaining, snap purchases, and establishing trust in business. He scrutinizes experiments in behavioral economics to understand why people hang on to losing stocks, why negotiations disintegrate into tit-for-tat disputes, and why money does not make us happy. He brings together astonishing findings from psychology, biology, and other sciences to describe how our tribal ancestry makes us suckers for brands, why researchers believe cooperation unleashes biochemicals similar to those released during sex, why free trade promises to build alliances between nations, and how even capuchin monkeys get indignant if they don't get a fair reward for their work.
Shermer (The Science of Good and Evil), columnist for Scientific American and publisher of Skeptic magazine, provides an in-depth examination of evolutionary economics. Using fascinating examples from monkeys that balk at unfair distribution of rewards after completing a task to humans who feel cheated when offered $10 of free money if a partner is given $90 Shermer explores the evolutionary roots of our sense of fairness and justice, and shows how this rationale extends to the market. Drawing upon his expertise as a scientist and the works of noted economists, Shermer argues convincingly that human beings are not exclusively self-centered, the market itself is moral, and modern economies are founded on our virtuous nature. He explores how we mind our money, the value of virtue, why money can't buy happiness and whether we are really free to make choices. Though dense in places, this book offers much insight into human behavior and rationales regarding money and fairness and will be of interest to serious readers of science or business.