discussions — of ‘value,’ of fluctuating prices, of the gold standard, of changing interest rates, of items of pecuniary wealth which are at the same time items of debt — are
merely discussions looking toward a readjustment of the factors which prevent them
The problem of analysing political choices against the metric of a Monetary measure is the Money as a Thing is most certainly a Variable and as any good technologist, scientist or metrologist will tell you a unit of measurement has to be clearly defined and fixed.
The dollar. He notes that it is a variable. Why anyone should attempt, on this earth, to use a
variable as a measuring rod is so utterly absurd that he dismisses any serious
consideration of its use in his study of what should be done.
He also considers ‘price’ and ‘value’ and the fine- spun theories of philosophers and
economists who have attempted to surround these terms with the semblance of meaning.
These terms, like the monetary unit, may have had meaning to men in the past but they
mean nothing whatsoever to the modern technologist. The standard of measurement is
not relevant to the things measured; and the measuring rod and the things, measured as if
they were stable, are all variables.
Incorporating energy into production functions
Quesnay’s famous but neglected “Tableau Economique” therefore described the agricultural sector as “the productive sector” and manufacturing as “sterile”—see Figure 1.
Figure 1: Quesnay’s “Tableau Economique”, first drafted in 1759, two decades before Watt’s steam engine
This was a justified assertion at the time, given that the Physiocrats wrote before the Industrial Revolution—and in particular the widespread exploitation in manufacturing of stored solar energy in fossil fuels– and originated in France, which was then overwhelmingly a rural nation.
Smith, who was influenced by the Physiocrats and wrote in Britain when industry was starting to exploit fossil fuels(specifically coal) on a grand scale, could have corrected this oversight. But rather than following the Physiocrats’ lead on energy, Smith instead saw labour—not energy—as the font of wealth (which he described in the same terms as Cantillon: the “conveniencies of life”), and ascribed the increase in productivity over time to “the division of labour”:
The annual labour of every nation is the fund which originally supplies it with all the necessaries and conveniencies of life which it annually consumes, and which consist always either in the immediate produce of that labour, or in what is purchased with that produce from other nations…
The greatest improvement in the productive powers of labour, and the greater part of the skill, dexterity, and judgment with which it is anywhere directed, or applied, seem to have been the effects of the division of labour. (Smith 1776, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations)
Economics thus lost the Physiocrats’ focus on energy, and instead descended first into the “Labour theory of value” and then into the Neoclassical (and Post Keynesian) notions of “production functions” in which energy played no role at all. rogerglewis
pretty sure the model does not include the energy use per head in the countries that actually produced what we used, and fractionated it for the energy use that went to domestic market, and the export market, and the cost to deliver goods across an ocean, truck them to stores, and into the hands of final consumers. And since the earth is a closed loop, we should count the energy cost of post-consumer recycling, and taking refuse to the landfill.