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The Darwin Economy by Robert H. H. Frank

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THREE

No Cash on the Table

ADAM SMITHS CONCERNS ABOUT THE efficacy of the invisible hand focused on the ability of powerful actors to limit competition. Liberal skeptics of the marketplace were quick to embrace those concerns and continue to see limited competition as the most important cause of market failure. But as Charles Darwin saw clearly, even perfect competition will not always guide behavior in ways that promote the common good. Individual and group interests often diverge sharply, he realized, and in such cases individual interest generally carries the day.

An important feature of Darwin’s narrative is that market failure can occur even when all individuals have taken full advantage of all available opportunities for potential gain. ...

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