My favourite critique of competition!

Perhaps the greatest appraiser of competition of all time is Hayek, in “the road to serfdom” he makes a point about competition being pivotal factor about why capitalism is one of the most efficient systems we can have because competition is an automated dynamic mechanism which cannot be replicated from a top down approach. It’s very hard to disprove that competition is great yet perhaps we can find holes…

So Robert Frank in the “Darwin Economy” describes an example of evolution being inefficient. Frank uses the example of competition within male deer. Deer compete with the environment to attain food and survive large predators, but they also compete amongst themselves over females. How do they compete? with their antlers of course, usually the bigger antlered deer’s wins the fights and get the female. So over time evolution dictates that they the average deer horn size will increase. Yet what matters is relative antlers size not absolute antler size, so in other words, the same hierarchical structure would exist even if all deer’s horns were halved. So if the deer could vote on decreasing everyone’s horn size(assuming they are rational) they would all vote for it because they would benefit as a species by not having to carry around X amount of extra weight when being chased by a lion.

So what’s something similar in the human competitive process. Once you get to thinking about it its very easy to come up with examples, interviews are one. What matter’s in interviews is that you be better than the other applicants(assuming a company is taking a fixed number of employees), so the more you practice the higher your chance of getting the job. But what if you could spend the months leading up to the interview actually getting better at the job? The whole world would benefit if everyone spent less time preparing for interviews and more time polishing their skills(which are sometimes not tested until your on the job).

Another example, maybe in dating, women favour blue eyes(not sure if this is true), but in reality blue eyes are more sensitive to sunlight and a genetic weakness because it usually means lower levels of melanin which means less protection from UV radiation.

This eugenics movement about optimizing the human race is completely misguided because it assumes which attributes are superior, Hitler deemed blue eyes to be superior… yet now we know they aren’t. You could argue that intelligence is an absolute that matters, but does it really? Steve Jobs wasn’t renowned for his intellect but his creativity, which is perceived to be exclusive from intellect and look at the value he created for the world. Even if we assume intellect creates more value how do we know it’s not because of the way we structured our society around it? Maybe if education was revamped other attributes would come out dominant. This kind of discrimination is the pretence of knowledge(start and finish with Hayek) and should not be taken seriously.


2 thoughts on “My favourite critique of competition!

  1. I have another example of the Steve Jobs comment. There are genetic variants that increase your risk of multiple sclerosis, but the exact same ones lower your risk for type 1 diabetes. Selecting for one means being at risk for the other, and there is nothing you can do about it. Evolutionarily speaking, all this doesn’t matter because it all happens post-reproductive age, so selection has no chance to act. It would be interesting to see how having this information earlier would change one’s reproductive chances, despite the trait not manifesting yet.

    • Hm who knows maybe in the future first dates will include family historical health exchanges. I had a date which involved going to the hospital and getting checked for sexual diseases… its not too far off.

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