Fogel calls for economics of the future

Robin Hanson (
Fri, 02 Apr 1999 09:56:27 -0800

Robert Fogel, economic historian and Nobel Prize winner, gave his AEA presidential address on 4Jan99, and said:

Technophysio evolution requires not just marginal adjustments, but major leaps in economic theory. We are slow in pondering such grand questions as the implications of the Human Genome Project, which is now nearing completion, and the emergence of molecular medicine for the future of economic life. We have entered an era in which purposeful intervention in evolutionary processes is passing beyond plant and animal breeding. The new growth economics needs to incorporate at least some aspects of directed, rapid human evolution. Endogenous technological change needs to extend to the fundamentals of human behavior. Theorists also need to grapple with the ethical implications of technological changes that, whatever their positive aspects, threaten to undermine the mystery of human life by transforming people into "material" that is transplanted, cloned, arbitrarily changed in personality and intelligence, and otherwise manufactured in ways that challenge the definition of a human being. ["Catching Up with the Economy", Am. Ec. Rev., 89(1):1-21, 3/99]

That is, Fogel chided economists for not paying more attention to the sort of issues we discuss here. His normative take on these topics may be different from ours, but I welcome the positive study he calls for.

Robin Hanson   
RWJF Health Policy Scholar             FAX: 510-643-8614 
140 Warren Hall, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-7360 510-643-1884 after 8/99: Assist. Prof. Economics, George Mason Univ.