Design is the Source of Variation; Selection is the Filter

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Vernon Smith.

Against Design concerns the impossibility of deliberate design for desirable outcomes when the dynamic processes of social and economic change are decentralized, free and creative. In this brief commentary I want to relate the authors’ theme to specialization, innovation, and morality in economy.

Human ingenuity and know-how are continually at work causing change and adaptation as people experience how things are and apply their distributed skills and imagination to finding better ways in business and technology. In markets, designs for change are a consequence of this propensity for innovation. The spectacular cases are well-known: James Watt, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and in our day, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, are distinct examples. At ground level this progress is also manifested continuously in “learning by doing” in which workers continuously find ways to improve their productivity through practice, and this process is supplemented by discrete discoveries tied to new capital equipment that involves human-machine coordination. The result is manifest in increased output per unit of labor time.

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