(c) Guy Herman All Rights Reserved 5/2012
As Americans we need to address the issue of scarcity, and the allocation of scarce resources of which, it is almost universally agreed there are profound and limited resources of food, water, oil, commodities of all kinds on a planet filled with now six billion souls and predicted to double in the next 30 years. Resources and the related wars, hatreds, genocides, impoverishment and enrichments for the varying classes will largely define the next fifty years of global life.
To this end, we need to understand the fundamentals of these indisputable facts and some alternatives we, as one of the larger population groups on the planet, can affirmatively make and decide, or not.
Let’s first quickly review the operative laws that govern all of the behavior of most of the undertakings which characterize our uniquely human way of life.
Thermodynamics, the study of energy, the conversion of energy between various forms and the ability of energy to do work has been described in three laws.
C.P. Snow, the British scientist and author has offered up an easy and funny way to remember the Three Laws. He says they can be translated as: (1) you cannot win (you can’t get something for nothing because matter and energy are conserved. (2) You cannot break even (you cannot return to the same energy state because entropy always increases (3) you cannot get out of the game (because absolute zero is not attainable).
The First Law basically says that energy or matter can neither be created nor destroyed. Because the system operates in the real world, some energy always escapes thus leading to both inefficiency and the Second Law, which was hypothesized to cover the so-called flaw in the First Law.
The Second Law essentially says that it is impossible to obtain a process where the unique effect is the subtraction of a positive heat from a reservoir and the production of a positive work with no net loss of either potential or kinetic energy.
Energy exhibits entropy. It moves away from its source. In this sense, energy or heat cannot flow from a colder body to a hotter body. You cannot keep a continual flow of heat to work to heat to work without adding energy to the system. In physics, and as we posit in this paper, in humanity, you have to add energy to get more work, and the ratio of heat to work will never equal 100% due to energy expanding away from its source.
The Third Law explains this further. It says that all processes cease as temperature approaches absolute zero. This is the temperature at which molecules cease movement, cease producing kinetic energy and at which there is no energy.
With the First Law, we know that matter/energy can neither be created nor destroyed. It can change form, as in solid to liquid to gas to plasma and back again, to houses and commercial office space back to money (potential) but the amount of matter/energy in the system (the universe) stays constant.
The Second Law says that while the quantity of matter/energy remains the same, the quality deteriorates over time.
Usable energy is used for productivity, growth, and repair. In the course of this process, usable energy is converted into unusable energy, and usable energy is thus lost in the form of unusable energy. Entropy is used as a measure of unusable energy in a closed system. As it increases and usable energy decreases by the same amount (First Law) randomness increases. As said earlier, energy retreats from its source and generally in the form of unusable energy.
For a simple illustration, think of a fire. As you add wood (matter), what is produced is heat (which then moves into the surrounding environment), and smoke and water vapor, which again escapes into the surrounding environment, and eventually ash, which gives up its last remaining heat to the surrounding environment. You are left with cold, dead ash which has taken on a random form which is without energy and not seemingly related (chaos) to the original form of the wood.
In the next few minutes, I would like to lay out a case which at once shows our wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East are unwinnable and unnecessary, that the two trillion dollars lost by the American middle class in the financial meltdown beginning in 2007-2008, and continuing, is in fact not lost but re-allocated and our seemingly endless, predictable and unquenchable, ubiquitous thirst for war throughout modern Western society, will soon reoccur, unnecessarily, but for which the benefit, to the Military Industrial complex, is still available and with greater savings, if that is our collective will, or enormous savings for the Commonwealth, if we are so persuaded.
Fundamental to this thesis is the notion, now widely accepted that everyone wants to conserve resource, be it the most impoverished, seeking to save enough food for the next and uncertain meal, or Goldman Sachs seeking to grow from the largest investment banker in the country to an even larger investment banker on the planet.
Power seeks more power, hunger seeks nutrient. All seek certainty.
Admittedly we may, with Bin Laden’s death now have the wherewithal, the political cover to extract ourselves from a failed war, but close on behind, there is Libya, Syria, Israel, Iran, the African nations and on ad infinitum.
The facts begin with the understanding of the first law of thermodynamics which in it’s simplest form says energy can neither be created nor destroyed.
We are, essentially given one deck of cards, one loaf of bread, one federal reserve or GDP and from that, whose dissipation we can slow with solar over fossil fuels, whose depletion we can put off by educating our young and taking care of our elderly rather than deploy those trillions of assets (energies to unwinnable wars) and we can feed more hungry or starve more poor. We can make peace or war, but in the end, there is the same amount of ‘stuff’ in our universe as when we started and though we may reallocate it, like Investment Bankers and Wall Street taking Two Trillion from the middle class in America during the financial collapse of the 2008-now epoch, there has been nothing lost, no net diminution of value, rather, depending upon which side of the street you live, a redistribution, for better or worse, but nothing lost.
What Investment Banking has done to the middle class, white collar piracy, is no more or less than what the Karzi & Kaddafi government have done to its people and with American money.
The facts of the presence and ongoing unchallenged life, metastasized as they are of the Afghani/Pakistan government and the unchallenged absolute rule of Investment Bankers and the Banks in American life is of such an insidious and tribal nature there is no force on earth, except for perhaps revolution as we saw most recently in Egypt and Tunisia or before evidenced in the American revolution and the disintegration of the Soviet motherland.
Said another way and fundamental to this thesis is the question of why do we spend billions, and in sum, trillions of finite resource in Congress, debating whether or what is the social contract, do we care for the poor and disenfranchised, or not, the next 1.5 million foreclosures, or not, for whatever is the consensus, we can stop the argument, the wasteful sound and fury, saving thereby the billions wasted now in the obvious to all strut and flutter of a congress emasculated and helpless to make a decision.
And similarly, as we have proved time and again, with Bin Laden just the most recent example, we have sufficient technology to scan, document, store and recall, through iris scan, facial recognition and voice spectrum analysis, virtually everyone on the planet, especially and specifically all who we may consider the ‘bad guys’ and the wherewithal to interdict their movement, their operations, and dissuade them from any collectively agreed upon act of terror, or democracy or unacceptable act contrary to the public will, with a sanction, or simply, an execution.
Why then, in an economy and world of scarcity, when, with a simple vote, or referendum, a mandate or mouse click on an i-phone do we carry on with the theatrics of pretending to fight for god and country as an excuse for us simply having what we want when we want it, and especially if this increases the ‘what’ of what we want, by conserving 30-40% of the cost (in usable energy) of the charade in which we are currently engaged.
Tribal law, we have proved over and again, like the laws of thermodynamics are immutable. Whether the division of the country is religious, ethnic, white and black, rich and poor, there is such a profound identity to, and affirmation of these tribal and ancient lineage and customs, nothing the American military, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Vietnam nor anything in the American electorate may do in Congress or the Justice Department may protect the American populace from the piracy of Investment Bankers, if indeed, it is the collective will to so allow such behavior. It does not matter what change we make, or think we make, if the war in Iraq, dismantling the Dodd-Frank bill to regulate Wall street, the Nation building of Afghanistan, Libya and Pakistan, the legislative reforms of tax relief, debt control, and a balanced budget, all conflict fundamentally with vested interests, and tribal rights. No matter how we trifle at the edges these are as established and ingrained and accepted a part of our society as the air we breathe or the foods we eat and with technology have become increasingly so and at an accelerating rate.
The income disparity in the US has widened, exponentially, in part for the acceleration of activity across time. For almost a century in the US, the income disparity was in the first or second magnitude between the middle class and the wealthy. In 2010, the top one percent’s income grew by 281% while the middle class staid apace with inflation and the lower class lost by more than 5%, so, to the question of what do we really want in our foreign wars, what do we really expect of our congress, let us look at those questions not as outsiders to the institutions, for better or worse that exist, but rather as progenitors, the creators of and soldiers for their very life blood and salvation of these cancerous forms of societal artifact.
And the cancer, the life stealing cancer is not the right or wrong of one position or choice or another, rather the dithering inability and associated waste for our inability to make a decision.
The bottom line of thermodynamics is nothing changes, rather it can be reallocated but will neither gain nor diminish. The fundamental question in war, is ‘for what, why and for who’ and if the answer is, for the benefactors and beneficiaries of the Military Industrial complex, and if the societies goal is simply to further the riches of the rich, then we ought to reckon with the reality that we do not need a culture of waste to build, destroy and profit from the manufacture of the rockets and bullets of war, that are continually rebuildable and we can, in a more humane way, simply do the paper transactions of collateralized derivate swaps, or subsidize the manufactures, much as we do Agribusiness, to not grow corn, only now, we will say, ‘build no more weapons’ and still make money, guaranteed all the while by the US Treasury, save the loss of life and resurgence of class hatreds, tribal warfare, all without a hint of gun-smoke, and thereby saving some of the lives and unrecoverable losses of war, the trillions in collateral damage which in the end, in conformity with the Second Law of Thermodynamics, can allow a further delay of the ill-effects of Entropy or that which causes loss, and prevent emptying the tank, sooner than later, as it were and albeit us not a perpetual motion machine, delaying the inevitable entropy and thereby benefiting the ubiquitous interests in our life span and the evolutionary gain thereby garnered.
The laws of thermodynamics tell us that in the end, there is no need of the moral, (religious, ethical, ideological) dogma or the fight that has for centuries ensued.
There are the vested interests of war, internationally, for chaos and disarray in our internal politics, for the near piratical earnings of the Investment Bankers, none of which we must necessarily abrogate.
We can summarily say, we are a country of rich and poor, haves and have-nots….and that is, notwithstanding the public will, the way it will be. We are a democracy in name only but our true interests are the corporate free market into which we have evolved, and there is no need, and indeed only waste in trying to redistribute the wealth and power that currently inures to those who already have it.
Similarly, in Pakistan, Libya, Afghanistan and all of the countries where, in the Arab awakening, democracy threatens our supply chain of oil and our fossil fuel dependent country whose beneficiaries, amongst others, the oil companies in the US have made, nearly a trillion dollars in the last ten years, are not really the subject of our political interest. Indeed, land wars, as a rule with our technology, in the axiomatic truths of the laws of thermodynamics, only run down our tanks, play out the cards of our finite deck and accelerate the race to entropy by the protracted and generally counter-productive engagements.
Said another way, we can be feudal lords, imperialists, democrats or dictators and whatever the case, after our national conversation so decides, or the resolution arises from the power brokers in the smoke filled back room of the big boys club, either case is better, for the long run than the disorganized, chaotic and wasteful mechanisms currently employed and or under whose aegis we live.
The laws of thermodynamics state categorically, evolution did not contemplate democracy, and despite our infatuation with it’s promise, it is one of the least effective uses, most wasteful deployments of our clearly finite and put upon planetary resource.