Evrimsel Biyoloji Psikoloji Sosyoloji

Karıncaların Masalı ve Evrimsel İktisat


“The life of bees is similar to people as a whole.

They act modestly like people.

Whatever is done in the cities is also made in the hive.

There is a gown carrying a sword.

Machines and workers who are not even us

And even ships, armies, castles Science, shopping, craft

This hive has it all. ”

Bernard Mandeville (1714)

       Bernard Mandeville is a Dutch thinker who lived between 1670 and 1733. Mandeville, who produced ideas on moral philosophy and political philosophy, influenced the thinkers who came after him with his determinations in the field of political economy. Mandeville, a satire master, used a sarcastic style to convey his views and conveyed his ideas in a sarcastic way by making various simulations (Günör, 2016: 526). In his most famous work (1988 [1714]), he created an analogy between the beehive with the selfishness and the division of labor and the human society living under the division of work in his book “The Tale of the Bees: Individual evil creates the Social Benefits”. Mandeville, in his work that he completed in 24 years, describes individual evils as the basic element that increases the welfare of the society. While selfish bees try to increase their benefits, there is an abundance in the hive. His ideas also influenced David Hume and Adam Smith, who came after him. Adam Smith, who is a moral philosopher as well as his economic thoughts, opposes virtue, but accepts the idea that individuals increase their well-being in their society while pursuing their own benefits. (Smith, 2007: 16 [1776]).“We expect our dinner not to be favored by the butcher, the brewer or bakery, but to take care of their own interests. We call upon their selfishness, not their human love. ”

       Although Mandaville has established an analogy between the beehive and human society, this simulation also contains some socio-biological critical mistakes. Honey bees are considered biologically social insects as opposed to being in satire. Ants, which are the subject of this study, are thought to have been derived from wasps 130 to 80 million years ago. (Hölldobler & Wilson, 1990). Compared with wasps, honey bees are “ selfishAlthough it is a living bee species, ant species have evolved in accordance with the environmental conditions in which they are located and classified ant species are considered as social insects. Ants seem to have overcome most economic debates in today’s modern society. The division of labor, specialization and communication skills increase as you move from a simple ant colony to colonies with millions of ant. For example Lead Ant ”The primitive ant species classified as “wild bees” are partially selfish and similar to the wasps and a small species of ants called Argentina ant, which spreads from Argentina to Australia, constitutes a super colony with millions of members. Evolutionistically more primitive ant species combat the colonies of the same species, while there is no war between the Argentine ant species colonies (Thaler, 2004).

       The 20th century concludes that a discipline alone is not sufficient to explain any case. The world surrounding our environment contains a more complex structure than we think (Heylighen, 2010). The social structure of ants derived from bees has been studied by many entomologists, evolutionary biologists, and finds use from engineering to sociology and economics. Establishing analogies between ant societies and human society, which can achieve equilibrium without any kind of intracompetitive competition where spontaneous order is realized at a high level, division of labor, specialization is high, and inequality is minimal, promises new horizons for economics as a social science.

 Ant Tale

       There are 8800 species of ants that have been identified in nature and every ant colony lives between 10 and 2 million. Ants have developed caste system since the day they appeared in nature. Each ant species has its own social organization (Hölldobler & Wilson, 1990). In this context, it is seen that as social organization develops in ant species, division of labor and specialization increase. A simple ant colony is composed of the queen ant, responsible for establishing the nest / breeding first, the male ant and the female worker ants who pollinated the queen ant but died soon after. According to the ant species, female ants maintain their reproductive ability, meaning they have the right to be potentially queen or completely sterile. It is believed that the female reproductive ants do not reproduce in the context of the continuation of the social order of the colony. In this context, for the welfare of the colony, female ants are suppressing their reproductive sisters not to reproduce, except for the queen. But if the queen ant in the Panner ant form dies, being a queen among female worker ants is still a small war. The winner of this war becomes the new queen of the colony. Ants cannot live alone as social insects. The queen or worker ant, which falls apart from the colony, soon dies. The life of a queen ant in a healthy colony is 10-15 years and the life of a worker ant is around 3 years. Depending on the type of ant, specialization increases in the colony as the organizational structure approaches from simple colonies to super organisms. In this context, although they are different from species to species, ants are loaded with different functions such as soldiers, larvae keepers, scavenger, cutter and collector ants. The worker, who finds food in some species of ants, stores some of the food he collects in a stomach called a social stomach and shares this food when he returns to the colony (NATGEO, 2011; Thaler, 2004; Hölldobler and Wilson, 1990).

       Bees belonging to the insect family, ants thought to be derived from bees 80 million years ago, and white termite species also display “altruistic” behavior as social animals (Dawkins, 2014). One of the biggest features that make ant society a super-organism is that it has advanced communication networks. In this context, millions of ants colonies are informed about the colony by using various communication techniques and try to fulfill their duty in the best way.

       As studies on ants that live on land are conducted, it can be seen that ant society develops characteristics similar to human society in many aspects. It has been observed that ants have made many advances we have attributed from primitive society to human beings before evolution, with evolutionary development. In this context, traits such as hunter-gatherer, agriculture and animal husbandry and slavery have developed in ant species (Darwin, 2012; Dawkins, 2014: 199-204 [1976]). While the Leaf-cutter type collects leaves, the mushroom grows underground, while the so-called Tree Ant and Nomad Ant feeds lice and provides sweet extracts secreted by them. The Fire Ant (solenopsis invicta) species attacks other colonies and carries their larvae to their colonies and enslaves them (Hölldobler & Wilson, 1990). As a result, some features developed in advanced ant species also point to an order that political thinkers, politicians and especially economists want to reach. A super ant colony, which we can describe as an ant tale, has the following features:

  • Self Layout
  • Division of labor and specialization
  • Improved cooperation instead of in-kind competition
  • Advanced social organization
  • Intracolonial harmony and advanced communication / information network (Hölldobler & Wilson, 1990: Dawkins, 2014: NATGEO, 2011)

Mandeville, in his work, sees the efforts of bees to increase their benefits due to their selfish nature as the only element that increases the welfare of the society. According to Nadeau (1998), the personal spirits and selfish behavior of the bees living in the beehive of Mandaville provide the order that constitutes the welfare society, and it is the first time that the idea of ​​”self-regulation” is systematically expressed. The idea of ​​spontaneous order in economic teaching has become a systematic idea with the “invisible hand” metaphor of Adam Smith (2007: 349). According to Smith, the economic actions that individuals take for their selfishness without being aware of it constitute the economic order and the welfare society.

       Within the framework of the liberal economic view, moving away from a balance that may occur in the free market will be resolved within the market and the balance will be reached. Under the competitive assumption, prices in the market generate signals for both consumers and manufacturers. In case of rising prices, producers want to increase the supply. In this case, prices return to the former equilibrium level. As a result, a deviation from the order is resolved within the market and the “invisible hand” brings the market into balance. Nevertheless, the existence of individuals and the “full knowledge” of the “Homo Economicus” individuals are very important for market actors to perceive the price signals correctly in the stabilization of the market.

       In the short term, the competitive process helps clear the market within the framework of “real prices”. Government intervention fluctuates around natural prices, where incidents arise randomly or prices cannot be observed with natural consequences. This hypothetical price is determined by the average opportunity costs that buyers and sellers calculate in the long term. However, in the short term, the concept of hypothetical and displaced balance seems complex and ambiguous in terms of the signals it gives to the market (Witt, 1997: 497).

       Economic theory has not been able to reach a consensus on the problem of spontaneous order for a long time. The problem particularly focuses on the problem of self-regulation or how to organize itself in an economic regime. This problem is explained in Adam Smith with the concept of “invisible hand” (Witt, 1997: 490) In perfectly competitive markets, the labor market wage level generates signals about preferences for individuals to choose a profession. Intense demand for profession A is directed towards profession A and labor force and specialization in raising wages related to profession. As a result, the supply of labor in the free market rises, wage levels decrease and the market stabilizes. As a result, the spontaneous order in economics is provided by the “invisible hand”.

       The concept of self-regulation in the context of evolutionary biology comes to life in Darwin’s theory of survival (the fittest). According to Darwin (2012), it is evolving in the struggle they have with nature in order to leave the characteristics of individuals who are different in terms of compliance with nature to the next generations. Individuals with a superiority in harmony survive and have the opportunity to continue their species.

       Although the effective distribution of resources in the ant community is considered to be developing within the framework of the selection of genes, especially in terms of division of labor and specialization with natural selection or Neo-Darwinism Dawkins (2014), strong communication network among ants has great importance in realizing this situation. Although ants vary between species, they basically communicate in two or more ways. Although they have not established a language as complex as humans, they communicate and transfer information by using a pheromatic chemical, touching each other’s antennas or legs, or with the help of different voices.

       Thanks to the advanced communication network in the ant colonies, how much ant is required in which area of ​​expertise is communicated to the queen ant and the queen ant spawns the relevant ant species in terms of morphology. If there is a need for a division of labor among ants that are not morphologically different, this is communicated through the “feelings” of the communication between worker ants. In this sense, although there is no mention of a complete central planning, there is continuous feedback within the colony. For example, the ants in the mouth of the colony of the red harvester ant type count according to their specialty by sniffing the worker ants entering and leaving the colony or touching their antennae. The amount of expert ant species required as a result of the census is transmitted to the queen ants or female worker ants are directed to the required area.

       In order for the “invisible hand” metaphor to be valid in the markets and for the ant colonies to produce correct results spontaneously, an advanced communication network (especially feedback) and correct information must be produced. The price mechanism in the market generates signals so that consumers and manufacturers can make right decisions in the short term and long term. Despite this, emerging financial markets are the “ real pricesthat have emerged in the market, especially since commodities started to be traded in financial markets (derivatives markets such as forward, future etc.).”A situation occurs when it does not produce correct signals. Despite the fact that there was no increase in demand in the global sense, the policy of lowering the interest rates that started before the 2008 world financial crisis, and the acceleration of the expansionary monetary policies of the developed countries after the crisis, there was no real increase in demand, and “virtual prices in real markets” occurred.

Graphic 1. Coffee Market Between 2005-2016

Source: Created using ICO (2016) data.

       In commodity markets where few large investors have invested instead of a large number of investors, prices have deviated significantly from their annual averages and producers who do not have market knowledge fully perceive false signals. The fluctuation in the world coffee market is one of the great examples of this. As can be seen in Chart 1, while the production in the coffee market was around 6.6 million tons in 2005, the producers, who accepted the price increase as a signal, constantly increased their supply. The price bubble, which rose from around 89 dollars in 2005 to 230 dollars in 2005, loosened over time, while the supply amount increased to 8.8 million tons. In this period, many underdeveloped and developing countries that did not produce coffee before mobilized the capital and labor factors to produce coffee.

       Although the ant colonies become large and complex, the communication mechanism is simple and very effective. This accurate and clear information is one of the cornerstones of the spontaneous order. Despite this, derivative instruments emerging in the financial markets in order to deepen the markets today create fictitious prices instead of “real prices”, which leads to misinterpretation of the market by buyers and sellers and cannot be regulated spontaneously.

Competition, Cooperation and Social Organization

       Many political thinkers, from Plato to Hobbes, from Adam Smith to Marx, have put forward ideas about the formation of complex human societies and human nature. While examining the social motives of the human, they put forward contrary theses on whether the individual or social institutions should be based (Richerson & Boyd, 1999).

       Hobbes (2014) suggests that people are in a constant state of war in the state of nature. People who desire similar things are in conflict to reach them, and this conflict triggers endless wars. Rousseau (2012), on the other hand, claimed that equality between individuals prevails in primitive societies. He argued that this equality turned into inequality in time with the change in human nature and became permanent with institutions such as property rights. Hayek, on the other hand, says that human nature is the product of the conflict between the motives we have developed for primitive societies and the rules that we must follow in order to live in modern society. These social rules restrict our natural motives and provide the necessary restrictions for us to live in open society and larger groups (Cordes, 2014: 7). Does the desires and aspirations of man lead him to cooperation or individual competition in the society? It is emphasized that individuals should compete with each other as one of the most important factors for the development of classical liberal economic doctrine. According to Bulutay (1987: 51), the fact that individualism, private enterprise and competition are factors that increase the well-being of the nations is reflected in Darwin’s evolutionary theory with the natural selection theory, while Adam Smith and economics are also showing themselves. Competing to survive is the core of these theories. In this context, liberal economic doctrine also suggests that individuals should compete in the market in order to increase their selfish benefits. From a macro point of view, the markets determined by the daily decisions of the human society are competitors. Markets and the factors that make up the markets contain groups such as buyers-sellers, workforce-employers. Entrepreneurs recommend, institutions make it easier, markets decide and knowledge grows. As knowledge increases, societies progress. The economy evolves as new problems emerge when new information is found and used to solve problems (Potts, 2003: 9).

       According to Frank (2003), the suppression of competition among individuals within the group is of great importance in the formation of social organizations. When the chances of competition against individuals within the group are suppressed, individuals can increase their personal success only if they support the effectiveness and productivity of their group. Therefore, individuals suppress competition and encourage cooperation within the group in order to increase their personal success. Dawkins (2014) took the gene as an election unit and claims that there is a problem of kin selection in the ants because of the evolution of the social organization. In this context, ants allow the transfer of their genes more, allowing few queens in the colony. For example, although female worker ants in the Long Legged Ant type have the ability to reproduce, they do not use these features for the welfare of the colony. If the female worker ant becomes pregnant, the ant sisters do not allow her to breed by interfering with the new queen candidate. In order to ensure the welfare of the colony and the social organization not to deteriorate, competition is suppressed within the colony. One of the reasons for the development of social organization in ant societies is that there is an advanced communication network. As a result, it is important to suppress competition within the colony and to establish a strong communication / communication network in the development of social organization in order to transfer common genes to future generations in ant colonies. ant sisters do not allow their reproduction by interfering with the new queen candidate. In order to ensure the welfare of the colony and the social organization not to deteriorate, competition is suppressed within the colony. One of the reasons for the development of social organization in ant societies is that there is an advanced communication network. As a result, it is important to suppress competition within the colony and to establish a strong communication / communication network in the development of social organization in order to transfer common genes to future generations in ant colonies. ant sisters do not allow their reproduction by interfering with the new queen candidate. In order to ensure the welfare of the colony and the social organization not to deteriorate, competition is suppressed within the colony. One of the reasons for the development of social organization in ant societies is that there is an advanced communication network. As a result, it is important to suppress competition within the colony and to establish a strong communication / communication network in the development of social organization in order to transfer common genes to future generations in ant colonies.

       In today’s modern society, although competitiveness of liberal doctrine is the more accepted norm in society, incredible developments are seen in communication and communication networks thanks to the developing technology. For example, the Swarm program is a social media program created by applying behaviors of social insects to communication technology. Thanks to this program, users can “check-in” in the places they visit without any central planning or invisible hand intervention and provide information about the places. The increase in the number of this information increases the probability of the information being correct. As a result, even though the users of the Swarm program are unaware of each other, they cooperate in order to achieve a spontaneous order.

       Heylighen (2007) argues that goods produced with “free” and “open source” information violate the traditional market structure and the view that commercial organizations are the most effective supply providers. It claims that people involved in the growth of open source knowledge are self-organizing without the need for either central planning or invisible hand. It suggests that open source information provides effectiveness with the method of stigmergy ” pheromone update, which is developed by ants to collect maximum food in minimum time, in other words, as an ant colony optimization method. Simply processing in process “ work-in-progressAlthough it is independent of the market and central planning today, it provides an example of the effective development of open source information goods such as Wikipedia and Linux. People involved in this process see where and how much they can contribute to the product to the extent that they can fully access the advanced communication network and resources. As a result, the production of the product is self-organizing and resources are used effectively.

       As ant colonies progress from primitive to super colonies, as social organizations simply grow, the inter-colonial war of the same species disappears and the ants in the colony suppress competition to keep the social order intact. Despite the liberal doctrine and opinions that people think that they are selfish and competitive in nature, there are also claims that man has social motives. While ants are suppressing competition and cooperating in transferring gene selection and gene transfer to other generations, Bergstrom (2002) claims that evolutionary theory and laboratory experiments are a social benefit and that they have developed a strong benefit in deciding about their behavior based on the behavior of others.

       In liberal economics doctrine and later in neoclassical economics doctrine, human is treated as a machine in rational choices with its unchanging selfish and competitive nature. According to Bulutay (1987: 51), individualism and the war of individual life underlying Darwin’s understanding of evolution is a reflection of the capitalist environment of the period and its understanding of competition. The concept of individualism and competition found in the teaching of economics with Adam Smith has found a place in Darwin’s theory of evolution. Despite this, the cultural evolution of man progresses faster than morphological changes.

       The cultural codes that Dawkins (2014) considers as “memetics” are also in the cultural evolution of humankind. Unlike other creatures, two different features sometimes compete and sometimes live in harmony. These are genes and memes. Biologically competing for the continuation of the generation, people are competing to spread their cultural codes along with the developing brain functions and the cultural codes that they have created in thousands of years. According to Harari (2015), he claims that human beings’ social motives as primitive society are suitable for living in small, closed groups, and when the group grows, social balance is disrupted and the group is disbanded. People, He argues that the most important feature that distinguishes them from monkeys, their closest ancestors, is the ability to act in an organized way that they developed as a result of believing in common myths (memes). People can be organized socially within the framework of these common myths.

       Although human beings have social motives, it is not a society like the ant society, where competition is oppressed by individuals in the colony. In this direction, although they show their social characteristics in small groups, inter-colonial wars occur, such as primitive ant colonies from micro to macro. For example, it can be considered as being among people born in different nations than members of the same extended family. Despite this, the cognitive learning ability and cultural features of human beings, ie the evolution of memes, are progressing faster than their biological motives. In this direction, developed communication / communication networks can contribute to the speed of people’s transformation into social organized economically – that is, super colonies. Perhaps the underlying reason for the development of human consciousness is the product of the process of human turning into a social animal.


       In this study, an analogy was established between ant society and human society by emulating Bernard Mandeville. When the development of economics doctrine is examined, it is seen that discipline has become a science in time, and it has become a science where physics laws are intensively used and reduced to mathematical formulas. Although Mandeville and Smith, Alfred Marshall and Hayek are recommended to use and use biology and nature to explain the economy, the answers to economic problems are limited, as Romer (2015) stated in his article titled “Mathiness in the Theory of Economic Growth”. It is reduced to assumptions and mathematical equations. This restriction is particularly based on the axiom, which is closed to change, such as “Homo Economicus”, and accepts solid people selfish and fully rational. Models such as the concept of general equilibrium evaluate countries and individuals on the economic concepts handled independently from geography, culture and institution. When we look at nature, it is seen that the same species develops different features / different balances in order to survive in different points of the world. Especially ants, which are social insects, have reached different balances, in this direction, they have been in different degrees of division of expertise from simple colonies to super colonies.

       When we evaluate the analogies we have made between economic and ant societies, we see that the price signals produced by free markets produce different results than the spontaneous order formed in ant colonies. For this purpose, it is observed that especially the intertwining of the financial market and the buyers and sellers give false signals for the economic agents, therefore, the resources cannot be allocated effectively. Providing spontaneous order in ants with a simple feedback effect may indicate that developed financial markets or especially derivatives markets should be reviewed. Likewise, market capitalism and commercial organizations, It can be argued that unlike colonies with improved social organization such as ant colonies, it does not always provide effectiveness. As Heyligen puts it, following methods similar to ant colonies in the production of open source and free information goods in information markets where the resource is not scarce can increase efficiency and welfare of the society.

       For centuries, thinkers have put forward ideas on human nature and the development of economic markets. The process that started with analogy between Mandeville and the beehive and the human society and continued with the invisible hand metaphor in Adam Smith has been severed from time to time. 19.-20. In the centuries, a world of social science has emerged with the rules of physics. However, the change in nature and human nature has shown that economics should be handled evolutionarily. In the coming years, new studies in the field of evolutionary biology, psychology, and anthropology have the potential to offer more accurate and more specific new ways of solving economic problems.


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Yazar sefaerkus

Kişisel bloguma hoş geldiniz. Ben Sefa ERKUŞ. Karabük Üniversitesinde İİBF İktisat Bölümü İktisat Politikası Ana Bilim Dalı'nda araştırma görevlisiyim. Ankara Üniversitesi S.B.E. İktisat ABD'de de İktisat Doktora öğrenciyisim. Yüksek lisans tezimde "Demokrasi, Ekonomik Özgürlük ve Ekonomik Büyüme" konusunu araştırdım. Doktorada da "Cinsiyete Bağlı Gelir farkının Nedenleri Üzerine Deneysel Çalışmalarıma devam etmekteyim. Sitede bulunan ders materyallerini isim vererek kullanabilirsiniz. İyi okumalar dilerim.


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