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Breastfeeding and the Wealth of Nations

I had the life-changing miracle of bringing my first child into the world (with all due credit going to my wife for doing all the hard lifting) earlier this year.

It’s come with a lot of new conversations in our household, including diaper-changing strategies, identifying whether something looks like a rash or not, and if the floor is literally clean enough to eat from — because, let’s face it, he puts anything on the floor in his mouth.

And just recently my wife returned from a breast-feeding support group that wasn’t really all that supportive. She told me about it. Basically, she was hoping to learn what she might expect from a change in her breast-feeding routine when she went back to work after her maternity leave.

The support worker merely responded: “Well, what do you think?

  Adam Smith

My wife said she found it reasonable to believe breast feeding operated by a system of supply and demand, and if she drew milk less often, that she wouldn’t generate as much.

To illustrate what a sensitive individual I am, let me just say, that made me chuckle. Not because it was illogical, but because Adam Smith’s economic theories published in The Wealth of Nations were odd points of reference when considering the operations of my wife’s mammary glands.

Was the “invisible hand” from Adam Smiths’ 18th century magnum opus regulating the supply and demand here? I was tickled by the imagery. Take note, my loving wife thought it was funny, too.

Shortly thereafter, though, another thought crept into my mind, influenced by the research we’ve been conducting at Axiom News.

We’ve been looking into the case for biomimicry as an “economic game-changer” for the past few weeks, engaging with economists and business leaders to see how nature is serving as an inspiration for sustainable practices.

And in light of that research, and the ménage of concepts from our conversation at home, my initial perceptions were turned on their head.

Maybe I had it backwards? Maybe my wife wasn’t applying economic theory to biological processes, but perhaps Adam Smith has one of the earliest published examples of biological processes being interpreted into economic theory?

Was the Scottish social philosopher influenced by nature in his concepts of supply and demand? Likely he was. The unabridged title of his publication is An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. It’s got nature right in the title.

Lessons from his work have been a staple in economic theory ever since. This is just a thought, but perhaps biomimicry has been linked with economic theory all along? And what does that mean if we were to make that identification? Is there a need to review Western culture’s entire societal canon of literature to identify where else biomimicry already exists?

Read more on biomimicry as an economic game-changer.

Calls to Action

1. Biomimicry can show us how to build resilience and cultures of innovation throughout our various systems. What's such a notion spark for you? If you want to learn more, check out Biomimicry 3.8. You could also add a thought or question below, and we'll do our best to add clarity or other ideas that might be helpful.

2. But there’s biomimicry, and then there’s the idea of an economic and social transition. What’s it all about? What are other features, tools, fields of action? Axiom News is committed to further journalistic exploration of these and related questions. If you want to become of this somehow, send us a note and we can set up a chat to discuss co-creation possibilities.

3. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter. We will be using these hashtags for the biomimicry news feature: #NewEconomy, #Biomimicry, #BlueEconomy, #Resilience, #Innovation, #Biophilic

What do you think? Comment below, or e-mail ryan(at)

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