I'm just back from a symposium which discussed the draft of a new book by my friend and former colleague Matt Ridley, author of "The Red Queen", "The Origins of Virtue", "Genome"--each of them a masterpiece of popular science writing. The new book applies Matt's interest in evolutionary science to economics. It takes a long view, and a very optimistic one. It is a kind of antidote to Jared Diamond's pessimism. It is still at an early stage, and I have some questions about the thesis, but the first draft is brilliant and I don't doubt the final version will be essential reading.
I came away from the meeting with a long reading list and several thoughts. First, all symposiums--but especially those discussing grounds for optimism about the human project--should be held in Napa Valley. Conditions in the area lend themselves to cheerfulness, at times almost excessively so. (It is not for nothing that I got married there. Not this week, you understand. That was a previous visit.)
Second, the interface between genetics and economics is well worth exploring. I reached the same conclusion a few years ago after reading Paul Seabright's "The Company of Strangers", a really wonderful book that has not had the readership it deserves. (Here is a review I wrote for The Economist.) Perhaps the literature is about to blossom now, however. A lot of research seems to be under way.