I am always delighted to read another piece by Gail Tverberg. Her articles are consistently highly informative, and the information she presents to us is without exception well documented, clear, and concise.
Her work flows from and is the extension of that of Donella and Dennis Meadows as expounded in their book The Limits of Growth, which can be downloaded from the internet:(https://www.clubofrome.org/report/the-limits-to-growth/). The position of the Meadows is that the earth, its resources and its inhabitants, cannot sustain current rates of economic and population growth much beyond 2019-2020 and certainly not beyond 2100. At that point in time population growth, industrial output, agricultural production, and the depletion of nonrenewable resources, as well as pollution in general, would push the world to a breaking point at which it would of necessity undergo a phase transition. The solution to these problems would be to impose limits on human production and reproduction. And so, it is that Tverberg in her latest piece, is arguing that we have indeed reached this point, and that both as a reflection and consequence of having done so, we can expect low oil prices and financial turbulence. Another way of putting it is that humanity is undergoing a “phase transition.”
My response to Tverberg’s article has nothing at all to do with the subject of the theory of the limits to growth. Rather, there is one particular sentence in her piece that is my absolute point of focus: “The economy is a self-organizing structure that operates under the laws of physics.” Because I feel that this quite brilliant insight is not adequately explored or developed by her, I would like to spend some time doing so. Of course, in daring to do so there is always the possibility that her understanding of the correspondence between the laws of economics and the laws of physics and mine are vastly different. If this is in fact the case, my defense is that I did in the past try to contact her to discuss this issue and she did not respond. I also invited her to respond to my article “The Creation Code” (https://countercurrents.org/…/the-creation–code-towards-an-understanding-of -dialectic/). She has not yet responded. I say this because if I am indeed wrong in my interpretation of her statement, then I must be forgiven.
The thesis of “The Creation Code” is that there is so to speak, a “creation code” underlying all reality that is revealed to us at one level, by simple observation, and at another more rational and scientific level, by research and inquiry. Philosophy, particularly the philosophy of dialectical analysis, no less than non-mechanistic physics, and I might add, economics no less than history or any other academic subject, eventually arrives at the same realization of the same laws that underlie reality.
While at the deeper and more detailed level these laws are quite complex, at the larger and more universal level they are seen to be quite simple. It is difficult to point to a “first” law, because each law is connected to another, but basically the two primary “laws” of creation are that everything is “internally related.” Not just interrelated, which would mean that separate things react and respond to one another, but rather internally related so that each apparently “separate” thing is defined and determined by its others and differences. Thus, there is an inherent unity of existence that is the manifestation of the singularity from which the universe or universes emerged. From this context, things are not “separate things” but are better conceived as bundles of relations.
Yet each “bundle” is a different “bundle” and it is this very fact that produces change. A change in any one thing produces, at different speeds, a change in other things to which it is related, and, insofar as everything is internally related in time and space, a change in the totality. There are various laws governing the nature of this change, however, the one I want to focus on at this point and in relation to the theory of the “limits of growth” explored by Tverberg in her piece, is known as the “law of the transformation of quantity into quality.” The reverse is also true. A change in quality, as of the air we breathe, has repercussions on the quantity of life for example.
This law is at the core of the “limits to growth theorists”. They argue that sometimes gradual and sometimes more rapid increases in things such as population food supply, pollution, and production will result in a change in the quality of life to the degree to which human life, and the existence of other living things may no longer be tenable. At that point in time, and in keeping with the dialectical laws of change, as well as the laws of physics, a phase transition will occur. This phase transition is best understood as what occurs when we take ice and put it in pot over a high flame. As Michio Kaku explains it “If we heat the cube on the stove, first it melts and turns into water; that is, it undergoes a phase transition…” If we heat the water until it boils, it undergoes another phase transition into steam. If we continue to heat the steam “to enormous temperatures” the water molecules break up. The “energy of the molecules exceeds the water molecules break up. The energy of the molecules exceeds the binding energy of the molecules, which are ripped apart into elemental hydrogen and oxygen gas.” It eventually continues to undergo phase transitions becoming plasma, then a gas of individual neutrons and protons, then quarks and leptons. At the most extreme temperature imaginable “a rip may occur in the dimension of time space.” http://home.igc.org/~venceremos/water.htm. In this process it seems that inducing phase transitions by raising the temperature of water results in a breakdown/separation of water into its most basic components as well as a simultaneous movement backward in time in which the basic structures of the universe, such as time space, cease to exist and the laws of physics no longer apply.
Thus, Tverberg’s observation that the laws of physics apply in the economic realm are perfectly valid and this because they are not the laws of physics or of economics, but the laws of creation that encompasses all dimensions and elements of creation. The laws of the universe are universal.
Mary Metzger is a 72 year old retired teacher who has lived in Moscow for the past ten years. She studied Women’s Studies under Barbara Eherenreich and Deidre English at S.U.N.Y. Old Westerbury. She did her graduate work at New York University under Bertell Ollman where she studied Marx, Hegel and the Dialectic. She went on to teach at Kean University, Rutgers University, N.Y.U., and most recenly, at The Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology where she taught the Philosophy of Science. Her particular area of interest is the dialectic of nature, and she is currently working on a history of the dialectic. She is the mother of three, the gradmother of five, and the great grandmother of 2.