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A contractarian view on cultural evolution

Christian Schubert ()

Papers on Economics and Evolution from Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography

Abstract: Evolutionary Economics still lacks a well-developed normative branch, i.e., a concept of socio-economic or cultural ´progress` that allows to derive social welfare judgments on alternative economic processes and states and thereby on (political or legal) institutional design. This paper develops an elementary individualistic contractarian framework, based in particular on the work of the political philosopher John Rawls, that may serve as a first step towards such a concept. The hypothesis will be developed that the Rawlsian approach, if properly interpreted, is compatible with an evolutionary ´world-view`. This means in particular that it can be made weather-proof against a general ´Humean` and a more specific ´Hayekian` objection to the social contract methodology. In that case it can serve as a basis which may eventually allow to develop well-founded hypothetical statements about the relative ´goodness` of alternative economic processes and states, defined from the viewpoint of the individuals concerned. In the end, a normative theory could represent one pillar of an overarching evolutionary theory of economic policy making, in addition to its positive and its instrumental analysis.

Date: 2003-11
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