Edited by William F. Shughart II, Laura Razzolini and Michael Reksulak
In mainstream economics as well as in mainstream public choice the neoclassical paradigm is clearly dominant. Almost all economics of politics nowadays applies the neoclassical model of rational choice to collective decision making (for example, Mueller 1993, p. 511). One reason for the neoclassical paradigm’s dominance over evolutionary approaches may be that the former can be much better described as a clearly defined core of basic assumptions, accepted puzzles and procedures to solve them. The neoclassical concept may be defined in one sentence such as: ‘the combined assumptions of maximizing behavior, market equilibrium and stable preferences, used relentlessly and unflinchingly’ (Becker 1976, p. 5). Evolutionary approaches are perhaps best defined as ‘dynamics first’ which implies the more or less relentless rejection of Becker’s assumptions. Maximizing representative agents are rejected in favor of boundedly rational individuals who differ in their knowledge, skills, expectations, practices and learning heuristics. The expectations and behavior of some individuals or populations can even be wholly mistaken. Static equilibrium is rejected in favor of process analysis of systems characterized by endogenous change based on the permanent creation of novelty, the competitive selection and the (often path-dependent) learning (learning from own experience) and imitation (learning from others) of potential problem solutions. And with the emergence of novelty, endogenous change and interactive learning, stable preferences become a much more critical assumption that can no longer serve as an adequate starting point in most cases (see Cantner and Hanusch 2002 or Witt 2008 for surveys of evolutionary economics).
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