Leave the world economy alone!

Several times in previous postings I have suggested that the best possible remedy for a dysfunctional world economy is to leave it well alone. It will repair itself in due course. I’ve derived this from Richard Feynman’s discoveries about the Law of Least Effort in the 1970s. This also harks back to what the classical economists such as Adam Smith and Jean Baptiste Say were saying in about self-balancing economies in the 18th century.

For the first time I’m aware of, modern reinforcement has come from Prof Adrian Bejan at Duke University, acknowledged to be one of the world’s foremost experts on mechanical systems and thermodynamics. His new book The Physics of Life is saying exactly the same — all systems, if left alone, will seek or ‘flow’ to their most efficient levels of operation.

In the case of the existing world’s production and transportation systems, they have to be driven by the use of energy. It’s not likely that significantly more energy can be injected into the world economy from year to year. Unless the governments of most advanced nation-state can undertake severe austerity programmes and reduce their high national debts in the next decade or two then the world economy will clearly lead them to default, just as Second and Third World countries have to do so quite frequently.

5 thoughts on “Leave the world economy alone!

  1. Keith, I have never understood what “national debt” means. Would you care to write a short explanatory post on what it is. I know what debt means when it comes to an individual. I owe someone $100.

    But when someone says “national debt”, I am not sure who owes whom. Thanks.

    1. Atanu,

      The normal definition is the total outstanding borrowings of the Central Government of a country. Whatever assets the country has are not netted against the borrowings. Also, the corporate and personal liabilities and assets are not included.

      That portion of national debt owed to external entities (not same domicile) of all types is called external debt.

      You might be interested in this:


  2. It’s not likely that significantly more energy can be injected into the world economy from year to year.

    Why can’t more energy be injected? What are the physical limitations? Is it that max entropy has been reached?

    As I see it, there’s tons (literally, since energy and mass are equivalent) of incident solar energy on earth all the time. That energy is already there. All that needs to be done is to capture it and use it. Of course quite a bit of that incident energy is captured by plants and we get part of our energy from them.

    But a more direct capture of solar energy is becoming very competitive. Also, nuclear fusion reactors may not be that far away. So all in all, there is a virtually limitless amount of energy available for life on earth to use all they can.

    I am reminded of the fears that people used to have about traveling at high speeds. They thought that trains were dangerous because at 20 miles per hour (or some such breakneck speed), people would asphyxiate. They were convinced that that would happen. Why? They just thought so. Couldn’t imagine otherwise.

    So aside from prejudice, is there any reason why humans cannot use more energy than they have used in the past?

    1. Thank you very much for writing about my work.

      I think you and your readers will find even more connections and agreement by reading my new book “The Physics of Life: The Evolution of Everything,” St. Martin’s Press, see:


      I will speak on this topic on 7 JULY in New York, see:

      New York JUNTO — http://nycjunto.org/upcoming-speakers/
      Author appearance, July 07, 2016 08:00PM
      New York JUNTO, General Society Library 20 West 44 Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues, New York City near the Grand Central Terminal, General Society Library 20 West 44 Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues, New York City near the Grand Central Terminal, New York, NY, US

      Adrian Bejan
      Duke University

  3. I’d like to see Keith’s answer. My concern is the negative feedback from the energy-matter throughput, including the displacement of natural systems by human infrastructure, and pollution overloads of waste sinks.

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