A survey of evolutionary policy: Normative and positive dimensions

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We explore public policy from the perspective of evolutionary analysis. Potential entry points for developing a normative evolutionary policy theory are examined, which involves a critical examination of the related idea of "evolutionary progress". The meaning of evolutionary policy is next studied from two different, normative and positive angles: namely, policy design informed by evolutionary thinking; and policy-making and politics as an evolutionary process. Several examples are provided to discuss the value of evolutionary thinking for policy, including in the context of the current economic crisis. Next, evolutionary policy is compared with policy advice coming from two dominant schools of policy analysis, namely neoclassical economics and public choice theory. We conclude that evolutionary thinking offers a distinct and useful perspective on public policy change and design. Nevertheless, there is a need for more synthesis and coherence among different studies as well as for policy experiments and in-depth empirical studies. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media New York.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-303
JournalJournal of Bioeconomics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2013


  • Coevolution
  • Escaping lock-in
  • Evolutionary politics
  • Evolutionary progress
  • Normative versus positive policy theories
  • Optimal diversity


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