An evolutionary approach to financial history.

  • Niall D Ferguson
  • Published 2009 in
    Cold Spring Harbor symposia on quantitative…


Financial history is not conventionally thought of in evolutionary terms, but it should be. Traditional ways of thinking about finance, dating back to Hilferding, emphasize the importance of concentration and economies of scale. But these approaches overlook the rich "biodiversity" that characterizes the financial world. They also overlook the role of natural selection. To be sure, natural selection in the financial world is not exactly analogous to the processes first described by Darwin and elaborated on by modern biologists. There is conscious adaptation as well as random mutation. Moreover, there is something resembling "intelligent design" in finance, whereby regulators and legislators act in a quasidivine capacity, putting dinosaurs on life support. The danger is that such interventions in the natural processes of the market may ultimately distort the evolutionary process, by getting in the way of Schumpeter's "creative destruction."

DOI: 10.1101/sqb.2009.74.050

Cite this paper

@article{Ferguson2009AnEA, title={An evolutionary approach to financial history.}, author={Niall D Ferguson}, journal={Cold Spring Harbor symposia on quantitative biology}, year={2009}, volume={74}, pages={449-54} }