Journal of Evolutionary Economics

, Volume 29, Issue 3, pp 919–937 | Cite as

Some elements for a definition of an evolutionary efficiency criterion

  • Félix-Fernando MuñozEmail author
  • María-Isabel Encinar
Regular Article


Together with the concepts of equilibrium, scarcity, choosing, etc., efficiency is at the core of economics. However, in an evolutionary context, efficiency raises several issues concerning to rationality, the complex evolving nature of the economy, economic change as the fundamental economic problem, and the role of expectations —that link purposeful action to actual action. The main goal of this paper is to provide some necessary elements to accommodate an efficiency criterion within an evolutionary theory of the production of action. In a nutshell, an evolving complex system could be considered as being (or “becoming”) efficient if the agents’ intentions could “materialize” in actions that would give rise to real states of affairs which, essentially, were compatible (even similar; never identical of course) with what it was expected (ex-ante) when the action “plans” were elaborated and selected. We set out this criterion as a micro-criterion and then we explore an extension of it at a systemic level using the theory of meso-level connections.


Evolutionary efficiency Action plans Reflexivity Expectations 


B40 B52 D69 D84 



We would like to thank two anonymous referees, the editor of the JEEC, and attendants at the Colloquium on Market Institutions and Economic Processes at NYU (especially, prof. Israel M. Kirzner, Mario Rizzo and David Harper) for their very helpful comments and suggestions. The usual disclaimer applies.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. Allais M (1989) La Théorie Générale des Surplus. Presses Universitaires de Grenoble, GrenobleGoogle Scholar
  2. Almudi I, Fatas-Villafranca F, Sanchez-Choliz J (2016) A formal discussion of the Sarewitz-Nelson rules. Econ Innov New Technol 25(7):714–730. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Antonelli C (2011) The economic complexity of technological change: knowledge interaction and path dependence. In: Antonelli C (ed) Handbook on the economic complexity of technological change. Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, pp 3–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Antonelli C (2017) Endogenous innovation: the creative response. Econ Innov New Technol 26(8):689–718. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Arrow KJ (1951) Social choices and individual values. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  6. Arrow KJ, Debreu G (1954) Existence of an equilibrium for a competitive economy. Econometrica 22:265–290CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Arthur WB (2015) Complexity and the economy. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  8. Ascombe GEM (1957) Intention. Basil Blackwell, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  9. Becker MC (2004) Organizational routines: a review of the literature. Ind Corp Chang 13(4):643–678CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Beinhocker ED (2013) Reflexivity, complexity, and the nature of social science. J Econ Methodol 20(4):330–342. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Benassy JP (1986) Macroeconomics: an introduction to the non-walrasian approach. Academic Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  12. Bratman ME (1987 [1999]) Intention, plans, and practical reason. CSLI Publications, StanfordGoogle Scholar
  13. Cañibano C, Encinar MI, Muñoz FF (2006) Evolving capabilities and innovative intentionality: some reflections on the role of intention within innovation processes. Innovation 8(4–5):310–321. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Davis JB (2017a) Agent-based modeling’s open methodology approach: simulation, reflexivity, and abduction. Marquette University Working Paper 2017–03Google Scholar
  15. Davis JB (2017b) The continuing relevance of Keynes’s philosophical thinking: reflexivity, complexity, and uncertainty. Annals of the Fondazione Luigi Einaudi: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Economics, History and Political Science, LI(1-2017)Google Scholar
  16. Debreu G (1959) Theory of value. An axiomatic analysis of economic equilibrium. Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics at Yale, monograph #17. Yale University Press, New HeavenGoogle Scholar
  17. Denzau AT, North DC (1994) Shared mental models: ideologies and institutions. Kyklos 47(1):3–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dopfer K (2012) The origins of meso economics. J Evol Econ 22(1):133–160. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dopfer K, Potts J (2009) On the theory of economic evolution. Evolutionary and Institutional Economics Review 6(1):23–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dopfer K, Foster J, Potts J (2004) Micro-meso-macro. J Evol Econ 14(3):263–279CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Earl PE (2003) The entrepreneur as a constructor of connections. In: Koppl R (ed) Austrian economics and entrepreneurial studies. JAI-Elsevier Science, Oxford, pp 113–130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Encinar MI (2002) Análisis de las propiedades de “consistencia” y “realizabilidad” en los planes de acción. Una perspectiva desde la teoría económica. Universidad Autónoma de MadridGoogle Scholar
  23. Encinar MI (2016) Evolutionary efficiency in economic systems: a proposal. Cuadernos de Economía / Spanish. J Econ Financ 39:93–98. Google Scholar
  24. Fontana M (2008) The complexity approach to economics: a paradigm shift. CESMEP Working Paper Series, N. 001/2008. TorinoGoogle Scholar
  25. Foster J (2005) From simplistic to complex systems in economics. Camb J Econ 29:873–892CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Fuster JM (2008) The prefrontal cortex, 4th edn. Academic Press, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  27. Geels FW (2004) From sectoral systems of innovation to socio-technical systems. Insights about dynamics and change from sociology and institutional theory. Res Policy 33:897–920CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Harper DA (2013) Property rights, entrepreneurship and coordination. J Econ Behav Organ 88:62–77. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Harper DA, Endres AM (2017) From Quaker oats to virgin brides: brand capital as a complex adaptive system. J Inst Econ. Advance online publication.
  30. Hayek FA (1937) Economics and knowledge. Economica, (February):33–54Google Scholar
  31. Hayek FA (1945) The use of knowledge in society. Am Econ Rev 35:519–530Google Scholar
  32. Hayek FA (1978) Competition as a discovery procedure. In: New studies in philosophy, politics, economics and the history of ideas. Chicago University Press, Chicago Ill, pp 179–190Google Scholar
  33. Huerta de Soto J (2012) La esencia de la escuela austríaca y su concepto de eficiencia dinámica. Información Comercial Española, marzo-abril 865:55–69Google Scholar
  34. Kallerud E (2011) Goals conflict and goal alignment in science, technology and innovation policy discourse. In: NIFU Nordic Institute for Studies in innovation. Research and Education, NorwayGoogle Scholar
  35. Keynes JM (1936) The general the ory of employment, interest and money. Macmillan, LondonGoogle Scholar
  36. Kirzner IM (1973) Competition and entrepreneurship. The University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  37. Kirzner IM (1992) The meaning of the market process. Routledge, LondonCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Koppl R (2002) Big players and the economic theory of expectations. Palgrave Macmillan, LondonCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Lachmann LM (1971) The legacy of Max Weber. The Glendessary Press, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  40. Lane D, Malerba F, Maxfield R, Orsenigo L (1996) Choice and action. J Evol Econ 6(1):43–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Leibenstein H (1966) Allocative efficiency vs. X-efficiency. Am Econ Rev 56(3):392–415Google Scholar
  42. Loasby BJ (1991) Equilibrium and evolution. An exploration of connecting principles in economics. Manchester University Press, ManchesterGoogle Scholar
  43. Loasby BJ (1999) Knowledge, institutions and evolution in economics. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  44. Loasby BJ (2001) Time, knowledge and evolutionary dynamics: why connections matter. J Evol Econ 11(4):393–412CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Loasby BJ (2003) Closed models and open systems. J Econ Methodol 10(3):285–306CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Loasby BJ (2012) Building systems. J Evol Econ 22(4):833–846. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Malinvaud E (1977) The theory of unemployment reconsidered. Basil Blackwell, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  48. Malle BF, Moses LJ, Baldwin DA (eds) (2001) Intentions and intentionality: foundations of social cognition. The MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  49. Muñoz FF, Encinar MI (2014a) Intentionality and the emergence of complexity: an analytical approach. J Evol Econ 24(2):317–334CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Muñoz FF, Encinar MI (2014b) Agents intentionality, capabilities and the performance of systems of innovation. Innov Manag Policy Pract 16(1):71–81. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Muñoz FF, Encinar MI (2015) Innovación, producción de acción e intencionalidad: notas para una teoría económica comprehensiva. Revista Empresa y Humanismo XVIII(2):33–54Google Scholar
  52. Muñoz FF, Encinar MI, Cañibano C (2011) On the role of intentionality in evolutionary economic change. Struct Chang Econ Dyn 22(3):193–203CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Muñoz FF, Encinar MI, Fernández de Pinedo N (2015) Procesos económicos, desarrollo tecnológico e instituciones: el papel de la intencionalidad de los agentes. In: Ranfla A, Rivera MA, Caballero R (eds) Desarrollo económico y cambio tecnológico. Teoría, marco global e implicaciones para México. UNAM-Juan Pablos, Mexico City, pp 97–142Google Scholar
  54. Nelson RR (2005) Technology, institutions and economic growth. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  55. Nelson RR (2008) Bounded rationality, cognitive maps, and trial and error learning. J Econ Behav Organ 67(1):78–89CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Nelson RR (2017) Economics from an evolutionary perspective. LEM Working Paper Series, N. 2017/18Google Scholar
  57. Nelson RR, Winter SG (1982) An evolutionary theory of economic change. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  58. North DC (2005) Understanding the process of economic change. Princeton University Press, PrincetonCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Pareto V (1909 [1981]) Manuel d’Économie Politique. Librarie Droz, ParisGoogle Scholar
  60. Pelikan P (2003) Why economic policies need comprehensive evolutionary analysis. In: Pelikan P, Wegner G (eds) The evolutionary analysis of economic policy. Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, pp 15–45Google Scholar
  61. Potts J (2000) The new evolutionary microeconomics. Edward Elgar, CheltenhamGoogle Scholar
  62. Rizzo MJ (1990) Hayek’s four tendencies toward equilibrium. Cult Dyn 3(1):12–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Robbins L (1932) An essay on the nature and significance of economic science. 2nd ed. (1935), Mises Institute, 2007. Macmillan, LondonGoogle Scholar
  64. Rubio de Urquía R (2005) La naturaleza y estructura fundamental de la teoría económica y las relaciones entre enunciados teórico-económicos y enunciados antropológicos. In: Rubio de Urquía R, Ureña EM, Muñoz FF (eds) Estudios de Teoría Económica y Antropología. IIES Francisco de Vitoria-AEDOS-Unión Editorial, Madrid, pp 23–198Google Scholar
  65. Sarewitz D, Nelson RR (2008) Progress in know-how: its origins and limits. Innovations: Technology, Governance, Globalization 3(1):101–117. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Schubert C (2012) Is novelty always a good thing? Towards an evolutionary welfare economics. J Evol Econ 22(3):585–619. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Schubert C (2013) How to evaluate creative destruction: reconstructing Schumpeter’s approach. Camb J Econ 37(2):227–250. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Schubert C (2014) "Generalized Darwinism" and the quest for an evolutionary theory of policy-making. J Evol Econ 24(3):479–513.
  69. Schumpeter JA (1947a) The creative response in economic history. J Econ Hist 7:149–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Schumpeter JA (1947b) Theoretical problems of economic growth. J Econ Hist 7:1–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Schütz A (1943) The problem of rationality in the social world. Economica 10(38):130–149. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Schütz A (1946 [1964]) The well-informed citizen. In: Brodersen A (ed.) Collected papers II: Studies in Social Theory. Martinus Nijhoff, The HagueGoogle Scholar
  73. Schütz A (1951) Choosing among projects of action. Philos Phenomenol Res 12(2):161–184. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Searle JR (1983) Intentionality. An essay in the philosophy of mind. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Searle JR (1995) The construction of social reality. The Free Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  76. Sen AK (1993) Internal consistency of choice. Econometrica 61(3):495–521. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Shackle GLS (1955 [1968]) Uncertainty in economics. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  78. Shackle GLS (1972) Epistemics and economics. A critique of economic doctrines. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge UKGoogle Scholar
  79. Shackle GLS (1979) Imagination and the nature of choice. Edinburgh University Press, EdinburghGoogle Scholar
  80. Shiozawa Y (2018) Microfoundations of evolutionary economics. In: Shiozawa Y, Taniguchi K, Morioka M (eds) Microfoundations of evolutionary economics. Springer, HeidelbergGoogle Scholar
  81. Simon HA (1983) Reason in human affairs. Basil Blackwell, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  82. Soros G (2013) Fallibility, reflexivity, and the human uncertainty principle. J Econ Methodol 20(4):309–329. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Stigler GJ, Becker GS (1977) De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum. Am Econ Rev 67(2):76–90Google Scholar
  84. Tomasello M, Carpenter M, Call J, Behne T, Moll H (2005) Understanding and sharing intentions: the origins of cultural cognition. Behav Brain Sci 28:675–691. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. van Staveren I (2012) An evolutionary efficiency alternative to the notion of Pareto efficiency. Economic Thought 1:109–126Google Scholar
  86. Vanberg VJ (2014) Darwinian paradigm, cultural evolution and human purposes: on F.A. Hayek’s evolutionary view of the market. J Evol Econ 24(1):35–57. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Weintraub ER (1979) Microfoundations. The compatibility of microeconomics and macroeconomics. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Witt U (2001) Learning to consume – a theory of wants and the growth of demand. J Evol Econ 11(1):23–36. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Witt U (2009a) Novelty and the bounds of unknowledge in economics. J Econ Methodol 16(4):361–375. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Witt U (2009b) Propositions about novelty. J Econ Behav Organ 70(1):311–320. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de Análisis Económico: Teoría Económica e Historia EconómicaUniversidad Autónoma de MadridMadridSpain

Personalised recommendations