Isn't there something in physics about that?

| 2 Comments

I dislike people misappropriating concepts as much as the next pedant, but I have to say, I think this time the logical connection I want want to make is valid. Take this article from Seed, ostensibly about clear-headed science reporting:

The United States, the only industrialized country with strong population growth, now has 300 million people whose lifestyle makes a disproportionately huge mark on the global environment, experts say.

The world's third most populous country behind China and India, the United States has five percent of the world's population.

But it consumes—alone—more than a quarter of the world's natural resources, more than any other country, according to the National Report on Population and Environment, put out by the U.S.-based Center for Environment and Population.

I know it's not quite the same, but could I really be blamed for suggesting that the law of conservation of mass and energy might provide some necessary perspective?

The US economy is also among the world's most productive nations. Meaning that the resources consumed get turned into something, be it plastic goods, financial services, taxi cab rides, software, movies, and so on. Certainly there is a massive efficiency question to address, but the overarching point of the article -- as evidenced by the headline -- is to suggest that the consumption of those resources by the US is an unalloyed negative for the world. This simply ignores the connection between resource use and economic output. All else equal, if you reduce resource use, you'll reduce output. And while some people may be fine with that, who exactly draws up the list of resources to reduce, and thus gets the pleasure of picking which industry will be turning people out of their jobs?

2 Comments

Maybe you better look at the 2nd law of thermodynamics also and incorporate that into your economics.

To quote Fark:

Wha?

Of course, a more nuanced consideration of "increasing entropy" in economics would include references to Stuart Kaufmann's idea of "order for free", to John Holland's "Hidden Order", and all sorts of other people who deal with things like the rise of order in social systems, complexity theory, and so on...

But the dog is funnier.

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This page contains a single entry by published on October 17, 2006 3:18 PM.

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