Herd Behavior in Designer Genes

University of Pennsylvania Law School, Institute for Law and Economics, Working Paper No. 264

38 Pages Posted: 12 Aug 1999

See all articles by Peter H. Huang

Peter H. Huang

University of Colorado Law School

Date Written: August 1999


The ability of individuals to choose the genes of their children has increased over time and may ultimately culminate in a world involving free market reprogenetic technologies. Reprogenetic technologies combine advances in reproductive biology and genetics to provide humans increased control over their children's genes. This paper offers economic perspectives that are helpful to understanding some of the perhaps unexpected ethical, legal, and social issues at stake in using reprogenetic technologies for trait enhancement selection. In particular, this paper analyzes two possible competitive games that might arise in such a biotechnological society. The paper focuses on herd behavior in the choice of genetic traits due to either a massive popularity contest or positional competition. The formal analytical game theoretic models can have several equilibrium outcomes in terms of individual reprogenetic technological choices and corresponding rational beliefs about what others will choose to do. This multiplicity of possible social outcomes suggests that a society can attain efficiency if the state or some private organization transforms individual parents' beliefs over the choices of other parents regarding children's traits and thus coordinates parental reprogenetic decisions by selecting as being focal certain beliefs over parents' reprogenetic decisions. A final section discusses other concerns with a world of designer genes and suggests novel implications about designer genes based on the analogy of genetic engineering to financial engineering.

Suggested Citation

Huang, Peter H., Herd Behavior in Designer Genes (August 1999). University of Pennsylvania Law School, Institute for Law and Economics, Working Paper No. 264. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=170688 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.170688

Peter H. Huang (Contact Author)

University of Colorado Law School ( email )

Colorado Law
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Boulder, CO 80309
United States
303 492-4563 (Phone)
303-492-1200 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://lawweb.colorado.edu/profiles/profile.jsp?id=456

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