Competition The Birth of a New Science

James Case

Hill and Wang



Trade Paperback

368 Pages



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What do chess-playing computer programs, biological evolution, competitive sports, gambling, alternative voting systems, public auctions, corporate globalization, and class warfare have in common? All are manifestations of a new paradigm in scientific thinking, which James Case calls "the emerging science of competition." Drawing in part on the pioneering work of mathematicians such as John von Neumann, John Nash (of A Beautiful Mind fame), and Robert Axelrod, Case explores the common game-theoretical strands that tie these seemingly unrelated fields together, showing how each can be better understood in the shared light of the others. Not since James Gleick's bestselling book Chaos brought widespread public attention to the new sciences of chaos and complexity has a general-interest science book served such an eye-opening purpose. Competition will appeal to a wide range of readers, from policy wonks and futurologists to former jocks and other ordinary citizens seeking to make sense of a host of novel—and frequently controversial—issues.


Praise for Competition

"Case's Competition slices, dices, and explains what scientists from a multiplicity of fields think they know about what ‘competition' means. He then vociferously argues why both public and private enterprises need to rethink competition's role in value creation . . . Case is all about the ‘big picture.' He argues that the economics of global competition are wildly misunderstood, and he posits an emerging ‘new science' to explain it . . . He is a compulsive explainer filled with great vignettes and challenging exposition . . . Case presents a wide-ranging technical tutorial of how mathematicians, biologists and economists model and measure ‘competition.' He skips smoothly from game theory's 1940s parental genius John von Neumann to pioneering 1950s Harvard experimental economist Neil Chamberlain to the 2002 Nobel Prize economists Vernon Smith and Daniel Kahneman . . . It is a better-than-bluffer's guide to the essential principles that guide research into the nature of competition in both ecology and economics. Case's chapter on auctions alone makes time reading the book well spent. His brief analytical history of the ‘winner's curse' is the best I've read."—Michael Schrage, The Conference Board Review

"James Case strikes at the heart of modern neoclassical analysis with this penetrating exploration of the reigning orthodoxy and the alternatives we need to consider. The implications for economic thought are startling. The implications for economic policy are stunning."—Louis Galambos, professor of history, Johns Hopkins University

"This is a superb introduction to the science of competition, whose roots lie in game theory. James Case's book offers sophisticated insights into its historical origins, its mathematical foundations, and its applications, from chess to sports to elections to war. He shows particularly how strategic choices in business and economics are much better understood in terms of game-theoretic ideas than the vaunted free market of orthodox economics."—Steven J. Brams, Department of Politics, New York University

"James Case demonstrates convincingly that competition does not quite function the way we were told in courses on the principles of economics. This book is a great read for anyone who wants to know how modern experimental economics and game theory can be used to call into question the dogma of mainstream economics."—Marc Lavoie, Department of Economics, University of Ottawa

"James Case's Competition builds to a knockout punch: antiquated economic theories are costing us billions in lost jobs, businesses, and pensions. The culprit is the ever-influential neoclassical economics, a house of cards barely supported by evidence and held up by ego and wishful thinking. Case lays out the sane alternative, an empirical science of competition based on the evidence of real people and real markets. This is a book that voters, leaders, and businesspeople ought to take seriously."—William Poundstone, author of Gaming the Vote: Why Elections Aren't Fair (And What We Can Do About It)

"When we interview for a job, play a pick-up game of basketball or check our mutual funds, we're competing with other people. Writer and business consultant Case, who has a Ph.D. in mathematics, surveys the topography of competition to show how it ranges from the complexity of game theory to the simplicity of bidding at an auction. The author begins with an extensive explication of game theory as developed by John von Neumann, John Nash and their colleagues. He builds on this foundation to present case studies of competition in practice, such as nations' angling for competitive position in their trade policies. Avid eBayers might pick up helpful hints on competitive strategies, and readers who dabble in the stock market will discover techniques to help in their decision making. Case devotes the latter half of his book to various kinds of economic competition. Futurists, game theorists and economists will likely find much familiar material skillfully packaged . . . But Case has some new and challenging policy proposals, for instance how to protect workers' interests while avoiding the pitfalls of labor unions, that will spark debate."—Publishers Weekly

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  • James Case

  • James Case is a freelance writer and management consultant, with a particular interest in the application of higher mathematics, notably game theory, to economics and various other fields. He holds a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Michigan.