False information, such as counterfeit goods, jeopardizes the competition-based selection process. Animals commonly use mimicry to capitalize on knowledge — or fear — of another’s strength. By imitating an animal with a well-known protective profile, a weaker one may enjoy selective benefits without the costs.
However, mimicry’s success in nature depends on the ratio of the original to the ersatz. If there are too few of the original, the profile loses its significance, and its protective value vanishes.
Similarly, nobody would display a symbol of wealth if it were too common. Therefore, assessing whether luxury goods will maintain their impact, and thus their appeal, requires monitoring the extent of counterfeiting.
Given that luxury goods provide individuals with a competitive advantage, higher luxury goods sales could indicate a brighter economic future for a country. In a time of crisis, countries in which luxury goods play their selective role effectively are the safest bets for productive investment.
Antoine Danchin is an honorary professor at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Hong Kong and president of AMAbiotics SAS.
Copyright: Project Syndicate/Institute for Human Sciences