Natural and human economies compared

  • Vermeij G
  • Leigh E
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Abstract

Human economies and natural ecosystems (natural economies) share fundamental properties. Both are adaptive, cooperative systems where agents—individuals and groups—compete for locally limiting resources needed to live and reproduce. Successful competitors differentially propagate better knowledge and technology for making a living. Competition has favored innovations, diversification (of species or human occupations), higher productivity, greater interdependence among economic agents, and the emergence of more powerful, interactive individuals and groups, so productivity, diversity, and scales of activity have tended to increase over time. Because economic innovations accumulate, these trends have accelerated over time in both natural and human economies. The shift from mainly genetic origin and transmission of adaptation in natural economies to mainly cultural adaptation among human beings has accelerated these trends dramatically, and made the modern human economy extraordinarily dependent on nonrenewab...

Author-supplied keywords

  • Economy
  • Ecosystems
  • Monopoly
  • Tragedy of the commons
  • Trends

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Authors

  • Geerat J. Vermeij

  • Egbert G. Leigh

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