Home > Uncategorized > Accumulate, accumulate! That is Moses and the prophets!

Accumulate, accumulate! That is Moses and the prophets!

from Lars Syll

In the postwar period, it has become increasingly clear that economic growth has not only brought greater prosperity. The other side of growth, in the form of pollution, contamination, wastage of resources, and climate change, has emerged as perhaps the greatest challenge of our time.

Against the mainstream theory’s view on the economy as a balanced and harmonious system, where growth and the environment go hand in hand, ecological economists object that it can rather be characterized as an unstable system that at an accelerating pace consumes energy and matter, and thereby pose a threat against the very basis for its survival.

nicholasThe Romanian-American economist Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen (1906-1994) argued in The Entropy Law and the Economic Process (1971) that the economy was actually a giant thermodynamic system in which entropy increases inexorably and our material basis disappears. If we choose to continue to produce with the techniques we have developed, then our society and earth will disappear faster than if we introduce small-scale production, resource-saving technologies and limited consumption.

Following Georgescu-Roegen, ecological economists have argued that industrial society inevitably leads to increased environmental pollution, energy crisis and an unsustainable growth.

Today we really need to re-consider how we look upon how our economy influences the environment and climate change. And we need to do it fast. Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen gives us a good starting point for doing so!

  1. lobdillj
    October 23, 2019 at 4:52 pm


  2. ghholtham
    October 23, 2019 at 5:11 pm

    It is a pleasure, and a slight relief, to be able to agree entirely with Lars Sylls. We do need to consider the impact of economic activity on the environment.

    There has in fact been quite a lot of writing about the application of thermodynamic principles to economics since Georgescu-Rogen, by people like Duncan Foley in economics and Quevedo in physics. I am not sure Lars would like it very much because it still treats the economy as a closed system and ignores the role of materials and pollution in production. That has come into focus as a result of current ecological concerns. People were not too wrong in thinking that most mineral resources were plentiful but were wrong in supposing the earth and its ecosystems had an unlimited capacity to absorb human activity without serious disturbance.

    The standard solution to the “tragedy of the commons” is to allocate property rights giving someone an incentive to preserve their asset. That is not going to work with the global atmosphere or the global temperature. Collective action is essential. When we see the difficulty there is in forming political coalitions for change because of disputes over the distribution of responsibility you do fear there is just enough truth in the caricature homus economicus for us to be doomed.

  3. Craig
    October 23, 2019 at 5:41 pm

    If we guaranteed every adult 18 years of age and older $24k of purchasing power with a $1000/mo. universal dividend and a 50% discount/rebate monetary policy at the point of retail sale, and also implemented a job guarantee of 35/hrs/wk at $10/hr that would give them a total of $57.6k/yr worth of purchasing power per individual or $115.2k per 2 adult household. And if we had a national non-profit financial and monetary system that gave a second 50% discount/rebate policy at the point of 0% note signing for electric autos, solar panels, green homes and every other green technology….we could end individual monetary scarcity, systemic austerity, chronic price and asset inflation and actually rapidly do something about climate change….instead of forever chattering about all of the junk economics and seemingly unsolvable problems….enforced by ignoring the power and significance of a direct and reciprocal monetary policy at retail sale.

  4. October 23, 2019 at 10:54 pm

    Georgescu-Roegen’s book was part of the inspiration for a novel dealing with the same themes (The Entropy Model): https://www.amazon.com/dp/1982920610/?coliid=I1WZ7N8N3CO77R&colid=3VCPCHTITCQDJ&psc=1&ref_=lv_ov_lig_dp_it

  5. Geoff Davies
    October 24, 2019 at 1:25 am

    Well yes. You see that green book cover in the right-hand column? Economy, Society, Nature … . Not only reduce the economy’s ‘impact’ on ‘the environment’, but recognise that we, our society and its economy are still entirely within the biosphere.

  6. October 24, 2019 at 10:45 am

    After the legendary work of George Perkins Marsh (1864: Man and Nature) – Republished in 1965 by Harvard University Press, and in 2003 by the University of Washington Press (=Weyerhausers Environmental Classics, Ed.William Cronon) – Georgescu-Roegen is truly credited with being the Founding Father of modern-day Ecological Economics.
    I strongly recommend all here to check
    (1) the Homepage of Jason Hickel (https://www.jasonhickel.org/) and his academic works (>articles@Capitalocene + his latest book (2018)”The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and its Solutions”) to further this discussion.
    (2) Per Bak (Niels Bor Institute@Copenhagen) & his “Instant Classic” (1997) How Nature Works: The Science of Self-Organized Criticality, Oxford University Press.
    (3) &, for a decent Literature Survey of the Field, my own contribution (:>)
    Social Ecology WP104 (June 2008) at the Institute of Social Ecology (Vienna), on “Fundamentals of Complex Evolving Systems: A Primer” (Free download@ https://ubdocs.aau.at/open/voll/socec/AC07528608.pdf)
    “Give Thanks & Praises”(BMW), and Best regards to You All, ek

  7. Helen Sakh
    October 26, 2019 at 12:34 am

    A “pleasure” and a big “relief” indeed. Thank you Lars. Let us keep it up.

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