Journal of Bioeconomics

, 10:259 | Cite as

The bioeconomics of homogeneous middleman groups as adaptive units: Theory and empirical evidence viewed from a group selection framework

Open Access


The paper presents a bioeconomics theory of homogeneous middleman groups (HMGs) as adaptive units as well as empirical evidence in the form of a number of historical case studies of HMGs functioning as adaptive units in less-developed economies lacking infrastructure. The evidence presented is not new: most of the case studies have been published [Landa (in Jenkins (Ed.) The informal sector: Including the excluded, 1988)]. What is new, however, is analyzing the phenomena of HMGs in a new way—as adaptive units viewed from a group selection perspective. In doing so, the case studies in this paper present empirical evidence of the existence and importance of group selection in human society.


Adaptation Complex regulatory mechanisms Major life transitions Social norms Institutions Trust Kinship Ethnicity Clubs Multilevel selection Cultural group selection In-group cooperation Between-group competition Cultural bearing and transmission units Dual-inheritance theory Ethnocentrism 

JEL Classification

D23 D71 D86 L14 017 Z12 Z13 



Earlier versions of the paper were presented at the ‘Bioeconomics’ panel, Public Choice Society meetings, March 22–24, 2002, San Diego, California; ‘Evolutionary Approaches to Religion’ organized by Richard Sosis, at the annual meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion’s Conference on ‘Religion, Economics, and Culture’ held October 22–24, 2004, Kansas City, Missouri; the ‘Evolutionary Concepts in Economics and Biology’ Workshop held at the Max Planck Institute for Research into Economic Systems in Jena, Germany, Dec. 2–4, 2004 and at the Department of Economics, University of Turin, May 19, 2005. I thank the late Jack Hirshleifer for helpful comments on an early version of the paper, and to Michael Ghiselin and Alexander Field for helpful comments on a recent version of the paper. Finally, I thank David Sloan Wilson for encouraging me to write this paper as a target paper and providing helpful comments on the final version of this paper.

Open Access

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsYork UniversityTorontoCanada

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