Progress in Evolutionary Economics
This paper develops an account of evolutionary progress for use in the field of evolutionary economics. Previous work is surveyed and a new account set out, based on the idea of evolvability as it has been used recently in evolutionary developmental biology. The biological underpinnings of this idea are explained using examples of a series of phenomena that influence the evolvability of biological systems. It is further argued that selection pressures and developmental processes are sufficiently similar to make this biological concept useful in economics. The new account is defended against a number of common objections to the notion of progress in evolving systems, including the claim that all stipulated measures of evolutionary progress are essentially arbitrary. It is argued that progress, understood as an increase in evolvability over time, is both philosophically well-justified and provides useful predictive and explanatory resources to those seeking to understand and manipulate evolving economic systems.