Bonus Quotation of the Day…

(Don Boudreaux)

is from pages 12-13 of the late biologist George C. Williams’s excellent 1997 book, The Pony Fish’s Glow (emphasis added):

Fishhooks today come in a great variety of shapes and sizes. Some have more than one barb or more than one point, often three turned 120° from one another. They vary in size, from those designed to take large sharks to those used in fly fishing for miniature trout. They vary in materials used and in the length of the shank, the curvature of the hook, and the placement of barbs. These variations did not all arise in final form from some contriver’s inspiration. Fishermen using the hooks noted, from long experience, that some variants worked better than others for different fish and different circumstances. The evolution of fishhooks has undoubtedly been much influenced by a selection process. Those variants found to catch more fish were more likely to be made (or ordered) than those that caught fewer – a process that takes place with or without understanding. If a hook with a 20-millimeter shank was more reliable than one with a 25-millimeter shank, it would be favorably selected. There was no need to understand why 20 was better than 25.

DBx: Note that the way that an evolutionary biologist – George Williams was one of the most eminent – reasons and understands reality very much as does a market-oriented economist. Variation and experimentation tested in actual uses. Feedback from self-interested (not necessarily selfish) participants, each with a stake in ‘getting matters correct,’ causes self-interested suppliers to better serve users. A process of trial and error ‘discovers’ what works well enough and what doesn’t; the latter give way to the former.

Further, there arises from this trial-and-error process a variety of types; there is no single, one-size-fits all ‘solution’ or outcome. And this happy outcome arose from no “contriver’s inspiration” – from no central planner. Why, it’s almost as if Adam Smith’s invisible-hand metaphor has scientific merit!

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