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Tuesday, August 05, 2008 CE

Energy, Population, Socialism and Capitalism


Energy: is a scalar physical quantity that is a property of objects and systems which is conserved by nature. Energy is often defined as the ability to do work.1

Renewable Energy: energy generated from natural resources—such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides and geothermal heat—which are renewable (naturally replenished). 2

Wealth: The value of one's total possessions and property rights. 3

Carrying Capacity: The number of individuals an environment can support without degradation. 4


Energy is the basis of everything. From energy we obtain wealth. It takes energy to make everything we see around. The more energy is invested into the creation of something, the more costly that something would be. 82% of our sources of energy are non-renewable and 18% are renewable5. As a consequence of this, wealth creation is limited. Even in an utopian 100% renewable energy world, the rate of energy conversion to wealth will always have to be less that the rate of energy availability. In a world with finite energy resources, the creation of wealth can occur at different rates. Wealth can be distributed amongst the world’s inhabitants in an egalitarian fashion or in a non-egalitarian one.

Capitalism creates wealth at a fast speed due to the natural human greed. In addition, it allows and promotes accumulations of wealth in a non-egalitarian manner. Individuals and corporations compete for wealth and obtain it from less effective individuals or corporations. So as the energy base is expanding, the system can be sustained in a more or less stable way if the masses are kept “happy” with the minimum necessary for happiness. This has been termed the trickle-down effect.

Socialism creates wealth from energy at a slower speed due to lack of incentive for individuals and corporations. Socialism does not allow unequal distributions of wealth within a population. In a world of an expanding energy base, the slow creation of wealth might generate impatient masses as they see other societies generating wealth in a faster manner. Socialist societies do not look rich in a world of growing energy availability.

If energy sources start to decrease, the creation of wealth will decrease. It would still have to be distributed between the current and future human beings.

In a capitalist society, the competition for the dwindling wealth would be fierce. Individuals and corporations will become more ruthless to the point of denying the masses of their acquired right to the minimum necessary happiness. Masses would revolt, the society would become unstable.

In a socialist society, everyone can have a share of the decreased wealth. Since wealth was not created at a fast speed, the decrease would not come at a fast speed either. Society would have time to adjust and take the necessary measures to increase efficiency and to survive.

All the prior paragraphs assume a constant or increasing total population, however, either system will have a better chance of surviving if population actually decreases. In a capitalist world, population decrease might be a consequence of social instability. War, famine, and disease could the means by which population decreases. A socialist, tightly regulated world might be able to plan population-stabilization-and-decrease policies that might lead us to a “soft landing” when we finally reach the point in which the Earth’s human population carrying capacity is achieved, together with a rational use of renewable and non-renewable energy sources.

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy(Biology)
2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renewable_energy
3. http://www.ncbuy.com/credit/glossary.html?action=LETTER&term=W
4. http://web.missouri.edu/~flinnm/courses/mah/glossary.htm
5. http://www.ren21.net/pdf/RE2007_Global_Status_Report.pdf

8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marco,

Interesting post. The logic is tight assuming energy is the only source of wealth.

While energy is a major component of wealth I do think that it is an overly simplistic view of wealth. I submit that time is a much more constrained resource - from an individual perspective.

Without getting all existential, when we die we don't take any of our Earthly wealth with us...

Once again, I think you present an idealistic view of socialism. The problems that come with Human nature (which includes greed) are not solved by socialism.

I think it odd that people spend so much of their time and mental energy trying to create a world where everybody is "equal" economically. On a personal level it is at least as obsessive and destructive as those capitalistic people that don't know when they have enough money.

Q

10:19 AM  
Blogger Doctor Marco said...

Q

It is true, time can be considered a wealth-equivalent, however, if it could be considered a wealth-equivalent in can also be considered an energy-equivalent.

The post is obviously simplistic, I of course, believe that neither a totally capitalist nor totally socilaist society is viable. There has to be a piont in between. In my opinion this "in between" has to lean towards socialist.

10:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marco,

We agree on all counts then.

Q

Ps - nice post!

2:00 PM  
Blogger Doctor Marco said...

Thanks. I value your judgement

8:17 PM  
Blogger Noah "Nog" M. said...

Interesting post.

But it shows a classic vocation bias. It reads like a natural-science-sort's take on an issue of the social sciences.

The finitude of the physical can't automatically be carried over into the economic. And knowledge is infinite. And since knowledge is what truly drives economic growth, economic growth is infinite.

And to be a bit more blunt, you're putting out some Malthusian ideas which have been refuted for over a century.

So to sum up, an eternally growing human population is not, by necessity, going to run into any economic problems.

Q.E.D.

Oh, and if someone really wants me to, I'll give my proof of the economic disutility of a limited population.

-Nog

12:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marco,

who would have ever predicted oil at $55 a barrel? Crazy huh? That will reverse. We'll be back to $120+.

Q

10:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marco,

Can you believe oil prices, $50 brl? They'll be back to $140 in the not too distant future.

Bought gasoline for $1.65 this week in Texas. CRAZY.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

Q

11:35 AM  
Blogger Doctor Marco said...

Q

Happy Thanksgiving to you and Merry Christmas. As you can see I have not been active for some time. I placed comment moderation due to the several spam concerning erectile dysfuction that were starting to appear as comments

4:45 PM  

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