Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thermodynamics and capitalism

Here is an excerpt from The Third Industrial Revolution. Therein he notes that Adam Smith's notion of wealth and the capital that produced it was in the context of Newtonian physics, another guiding worldview of the time. Hence markets were seen like the well-ordered clock metaphor of physics, with enlightened self-interest its invisible hand. All of which was based on the reversible nature of Newtonian physics, which had yet to account for the irreversible nature of time via the laws of thermodynamics. However Smith's economics had by then become an ideology and refused to account for these laws in its economic model.

And which models all have to do with thermodynamic 'energy' production. Smith's economics was based on virtually limitless energy but did not account for the thermodynamic costs of coal usage, since its scientific base did not yet recognize it. And refused to do so when the science became available.

"Enlightenment philosophers, with the exception of Thomas Malthus, came to believe that the pursuit of economic activity is a linear process that invariably leads to unlimited material progress on Earth, if only the market mechanism is left uninhibited so that the 'invisible hand' can regulate supply and demand. The very idea that an acceleration of economic activity might result in a degraded environment and a dark future for unborn generations would have been unfathomable."

Same with today's economists, still caught in this linear capitalist paradigm and who refuse to acknowledge the science of thermodynamics (and science generally). Even to the point of denying climate change and its cause, this very paradigm and its CO2 costs.

1 comment:

  1. I also discussed the above ideas from TIR in these posts:


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