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Bionomics: Economy As Ecosystem Paperback – April, 1995

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Economists from across the political spectrum will have plenty to howl about as a result of this fresh and engaging statement of a new economic theory. Rothschild, a business consultant, lawyer, and MBA, gores all the traditional oxen without favoritism. His theory, which is well presented and well illustrated by example and analogy, uses biology and genetics as a template for the way that economic systems develop. He sees capitalism as the evolutionary result of organisms (businesses, corporations, markets, economies) that seek to preserve themselves through adaptation to environment and "genetic" inheritance of successful characteristics. Bound to be controversial, this book is different from the spate of futurist tomes about the world of tomorrow in a dozen ways, not the least of which is that it is highly enjoyable and absorbing reading. Rothschild's discussion of biological evolution is worth having in and of itself. An unusual and accessible addition to general and business collections, as well as the social sciences.
- Mark L. Shelton, Columbus, Ohio
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Owl Books; Reissue edition (April 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805019790
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805019797
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #208,206 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Max More on December 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
Rothschild argues that free-market capitalism is not an "ism" but a naturally occurring phenomenon. Bionomics makes extensive parallels with the world of biology to reveal capitalism's cooperative as well as competitive aspects. This book predates many more recent writings that apply biological and emergent order ideas to markets and is still one of the best discussions. As the economy is continually and dynamically driven into new states by technological change, the lessons of Bionomics are more pertinent than ever. They suggest great caution regarding government planning and control of a naturally growing and self-regulating market economy. Government's role is to protect the property rights that allow new economic orders to flourish.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Kazmierczak on July 26, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is a wonderfully rich book in describing modern economics using the principals of the biology. It makes the most basic economic principals understood by using the theories of evolution. It should be required reading for Economic students (it would have been great to have this book in my Econ classes). The book also provides some excellent history of economic thought, the history of evolution, history of the stream driving motor, and more.
I would highly recommend it even though there are some parts where Rothschild uses slightly bias language to make his points (particularly about the saving rates in the U.S.). I have the version that was written in 1990. It was be especially interesting to read the updated version, especially given everything that has happen during the 1990s.
Rothschild, Congratulations on an excellent book. -matthew@mkaz.com
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By AD on December 6, 1999
Format: Paperback
As an economics major ('75 grad) I found this a facsinating read. Rothschild notes that the roots of Darwin's natural selection theory came from his study of economics...and it makes intuitive sense that economics would have much more to do with biology than math and statistics. Capitalism is not just another economic system... it is a natural emergent quality of nature itself. If you want to understand the "New Economics" you must read this book, which will be required reading in all econ courses I'm sure.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By John S. Ryan on September 11, 1999
Format: Paperback
An excellent book on economics that should be of interest to all supporters of the free market, especially to Austrian-school economists and supporters of a Hayekian view of spontaneous order.

I agree with the reader from Northern Virginia who points out that Darwinism is not as well established as Rothschild thinks; the reviewer in question is probably thinking of e.g. Michael Behe's excellent _Darwin's Black Box_, which see.

But that doesn't detract much from the ideas in _Bionomics_ -- in fact the theory of natural selection was itself originally an importation of economic ideas into biology. (And those ideas do have application there, even if they don't explain _everything_. An economic account doesn't explain _all_ of human society, either -- just some features of how it works.)

So think of this book as completing the circle: economics is at last reclaiming its own ideas from biology. Rothschild is right that his analogies with evolution aren't exact. But his book is actually a _better_ application of the ideas in question than is the theory of natural selection.

It makes good sense that the coordinated activities of _purposeful_ beings should result in overall patterns that look purposeful themselves -- much _better_ sense than that purposeful behavior _itself_ should ultimately result from fundamentally nonteleological activities.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Asmundur R. on March 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book opened for me ways of seeing both personal and coorporate life in a context that is both exciting and refreshing. The author puts forward a very interesting theory about human development, a theory that we have all known but few have understood or been able to put to words. He gives a possible answere to the question "Why did mankind stay relatively undeveloped until a few hundred years ago" His suggestions and the views expressed in the book make a lot of sense to me and go very close to guaranteeing success at whatever one is doing. This is a book that everyone should read. Its an eye opener!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Conroy on March 5, 1999
Format: Paperback
Michael Rothschild provides fresh new insights into the way economies operate, especially as we head further into the digital age. Most classical economic theorists are at a loss to explain the kind of rapid acceleration in technological innovation we have seen in the past several years. This is a refreshing new perspective that makes a lot of sense, even though it was written several years ago.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
A five star in every respect, should be made required reading in every economics class; eye opening and revolutionary. I am on the Board of Advisors of 2 of the best known business schools in the US and have told both deans, this book should be read by every MBA candidate.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By ayoumans@micro.honeywell.com on July 15, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Bionomics is the branch of ecology that examines the economic relations between organisms (organizations)and their environment. The bionomic perspective illuminates the interaction of forces that maintain stability while spawning changes.
Parallel Domains of evolving information: a)DNA genetic information is the basis of life and provides for genetic variation. b)Recorded information is the source of all economic life and provides for technical innovation (variation) through experience and learning through market-based competition. In both cases, relatively long periods of information stability are punctuated by bursts of change (punctuated equilibrium).
Organizations use discrete pieces of this vast body of increasing knowledge to turn materials into products and services that satisfy human needs.
In a world of limited resources, learning allows the economic pie to keep growing. Capitalism is the spontaneous, self-organizing phenomenon that human society uses to! ! organize itself for survival in a world of limited resources.
Key Theme: An organization's performance is constrained by its technology (organized information), and its technology is limited only by its members' ability to work together as an intelligent, innovative, learning organization.
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