The laws of physics have reminded us — let’s get used to it

Is 8,000 years a long enough period in which emperors, kings and aristocrats could have discovered all the goods and services that are capable of being used and enjoyed?

If so, then the typical middle-class person in one of the dozen advanced countries can’t reasonably expect any more new goods and services. If so, he now has as settled and as idiosyncratic way of life in an urban or suburban environment as Inuits in their igloos living above the Arctic Circle or the hunter-gatherer Sans in the Kalahari Desert.

If so, the industrial revolution must now be considered as having spluttered to its end. It never could have been extended to all 200 of the countries of the world without the injection of at least four or five times the energy that is presently being injected — whether from fossil fuels or renewables.

The industrial revolution was already spluttering to its end in the 1980s when the financial sector pushed forward all manner of new forms of credit to get people in the advanced countries to consumer all the more. The attempt failed and economists have been ‘rewarded’ ever since by the 2008 Crisis — from which they have no solution of robust economic revival.

It was, if you like, a reminder by the laws of physics that unless you can magnify enormously the amount of energy going into the economic system then it has to stabilize some time at some level.

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