Respect and Self Interest

Thinking about justifying differences in income. The topic has many aspects; Here I would like to mentally embark on the respect for the higher:

When the lower is respecting the higher, he is giving him a space of movement and the emotional power to fill his role well. This is benefitting himself insofar as the success of his group is promoted. Part of this respect can be, but is not necessarily, that the lower grants the higher a bigger chunk of the cake being baked together. This is creating additional room for movement for the latter.

The good boss is aware that the respect of his / her people deserves to be earned. He / she feels obliged to them and not to his / her sources of money – or only insofar as this is necessary for the success of the group (company, village, state, club…) and its participants.

The thing becomes awkward when the direction of effect is reversed, when the higher is demanding respect, obedience and his extra gain as the duty of the sub. He can force this by his powerful position – and by a “natural” alliance with the other leaders, this forcing becomes almost unassailable; this is Marx’s “class in and of itself”, and has shown itself over the millennia as a class struggle from above. In doing so, an elitist world view is installed in the minds that is obstructing the emergence of movements that can challenge the structure.

In spite of all the Enlightenment, revolutions and democratization, we are still encountering this elitist view of the world at every turn. Within the shelter given by it, the superiors can overdo it with impunity, and that is what the nobility and the upper classes have done since time immemorial. As shown in 1789 and 1917, they did not get away with it always. The countermovement was able to condense into actionable forces and eliminate the elitist order – without, however, finding a wise approach to the phenomenon of leading and let-oneself-beeing-led.

The advantage of electoral democracy is that power is institutionally anchored in the voluntary respect of the led. In a huge area of society however, the economy, this is not the case, although many leaders feel the commitment to the led and seek to act accordingly. The ideology prevailing there is one in which the satisfaction of the participants (i.e.employees) is not a value in itself, but a means of motivation, and this again a means of capital return. The lords of capital are imbued with elite sentiment, sustained by the rules of order, but not by voluntary respect.

What to do? Frankly, I don’t know.


Europe and daily life


For me, at the level of my daily life, Europe means little. At least, this is how it seems. But then I see my Spanish flatmate, and I realize how well the process of growing together is progressing, and how positively the political institution of Europe has affected it.

But on the political level, Europe means something exciting to me. A family with very different members who are nevertheless a family. And I hope that there is a European way of action, that goes beyond the lowest common denominator of the opinions of the 28 Heads of State, who in turn are responsible to several dozen national political parties.

The Guardian has now launched a series of articles on Europe designed to give an overview of many different aspects of the rapprochement process. One of the first articles deals with income inequality: Europe is the world’s least income-differentiated region. 1)

The existence of multinational corporations forces supranational political organs. That is absolutely trivial.

The European political system is not undemocratic, but it is based on the nations and their interests that must be negotiated – not on the European citizen who happens to live in this or that nation. This other thinking is developing slowly and I like that.

A new left-wing European party has recently formed, the DiEM25 (Democracy in Europe – Movement 2025). That is touching for me. They wrote a “Manifesto” which is not accidentally reminding of that other manifesto published in 1848. It had its foundation meeting in the Volksbühne at Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz in Berlin !! Funny, isn’t it? And workshops in rooms of the Technical University, my alma mater.

I am still undecided whether I will get involved there, but I will definitely keep the matter on the screen.

1) Scandinavia is the leader, France and Germany very similar and somewhere in the middle, Spain and Greece the most unequal in Europe. Mexico, USA, Turkey, Chile the most unequal among all OECD countries (source).


“Climate Leadership”

Every now and then somebody writes about “climate leadership” and how this or that country will loose it or take it over. IMHO this is bullshit.

If the term is not linked to the emissions themselves, but to some nice-sounding, but half-hearted, PR boosted measures, that let decrease the very emissions, that the very same country has insanely increased in the past, then it becomes just a joke.

The real climate leaders – if the term has any meaning at all – are the countries with the lowest per capita emissions, i.e. the developing and some of the intermediate countries, especially those, who do everything to not go the high-emissions-then-lower-a-bit path we went. Those are the leaders to follow, and when we look at the emissions spread (yearly, per capita) (source):

  • 20 t in US, Canada, Australia,
  • 7-11 t in Europe and China (with the developed part of China more in the 10 t – region!) ,
  • 3 – 4 t in Africa and Asia without China,
  • 2,5 t as longterm equilibrium emissions,
  • 0 t just to hit the break of the train running much too fast

we see, how much they are in front of us and how much we still have to achieve!

Then, to strive for “climate leadership” means to do the right thing for the wrong reasons. We should decrease our emissions because of our f***ng responsibility for the f***ng world, independently of what the others do or do not!




The internal combustion engine of the future

In the not-too-distant future, we will have had to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to near zero (see, for example, here). Fuel for internal combustion engines will then only be regeneratively produced, which means, that there will be little of it. At that point in time, combustion engines must be extremely efficient to squeeze the last mile out of what little fuel is left for the 10 Billion we will then be on earth.

The most efficient engine configuration is the opposed-piston engine (see, for example, here and here), and the most efficient number of cylinders is 1.

Therefore, under the condition of extreme emission limitation, the single-cylinder opposed-piston engine will prevail.

It might have a smaller and a larger cylinder, with the former used for small and medium speed and the latter for higher speeds or uphill, but will generally run on only one of them.

Exergy and Economy

(This post is a reaction to “The Physics of Energy and the Economy” on “Our Finite World” by Gail Tverberg)

Dissipative systems use exergy, which might be just a nitpicking, but I think not: to use those words make the process of dissipation more palpable.

I see the economy as a net of pathways, consisting of production units (from big companies down to single crafts(wo)men), which works most effectively in a semi-stable environment, i.e. no big fast changes. Then, the units can develop routine and skill in their respective task and the net does not suffer high transaction losses. Parameters change all the time: some production units become more effective than others, the amount of work to get raw materials changes, sometimes to lower, sometimes to higher levels, demand structure changes, the terms of exchange (aka prices) change and so on. To a certain extent, the net can rearrange, its elements can learn new skills, so that the overall efficiency does not plunge.

I support here the Marxian notion, that the relative value of anything on the market is in the long run defined by the amount of human work put into it.

So, to be more precise in definition, a collapse of the economy can be seen as the net beeing ripped apart, which leaves some chains of production more or less intact, while others, neighbouring to the rip, “die from starvation”, so to say. The overall production falls to the level of what is delivered by the relatively intact part.

Now enter two characters on the stage: productivity gains by investment, which is investment of work of course, reflected by a money stream, and information loss about the environment, aka negentropy loss, or entropy increase. They are somehow distant relatives of one another.

Productivity gains by investment decrease more and more, reflecting the fact, that human needs stay – more or less – the same, while the production process is approaching the most effective way to fulfill those needs.

OTOH, negentropy loss places a growing strain on the production system. Lower and lower concentration levels of raw materials can be compensated for by higher and higher exergy use for their concentration. A bigger and bigger part of our yearly exergy budgets is directed to raw material extraction, while the exergy stream is itself beeing limited by external factors, most prominently global warming, and secondly the growing scarcety of high concentration exergy itself.

Can the economy deal with this strain? My answer is: yes, if, and only if, the changes, which are undoubtedly profound, don’t come at too fast a pace, and if the economy is made deliberately more resilient.

What is a resilient economy? One with a little bit less specialization and more general skills, one with sounder financing to prevent one mesh of the net cracking to initiate a rip across the system.


The Web Of The Good

picture: NASA

picture: NASA

In November, the next, that is the 21st, UN Climate Conference will take place in Paris. It is a highly complex event with thousands of participants within the UNFCCC – the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Its goal is to set mandatory emission limits for all member states. Predictably, this will be a difficult task (even given, that climate change and its consequences are hardly disputed any more – except in the US of A).

The EU created with its cap-and-trade-system the biggest tool globally to decrease GHG emissions. But it went to work too faint-heartedly from the beginning. This is why the system is currently in the process of being reformed, concerning the rate of decrease as well as some modalities.

Meanwhile, under the radar of the mass media, a global emission alliance is forming from the bottom up.

It all started with single cities and regions which decided to put their own house in order first and give themselves their own emissions cap. This happened (and in some cases will happen soon) in Australia, New Zealand, California, Quebec, Tokyo, Kasakhstan, Mexico, Washington (State), Ontario, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative with 9 east coast states in the US, South Korea, some Regions in China.

California and Quebec have now joined their emissions allowances systems. This means, that a power plant in California, which did not use its bought allowances, can sell it to another in Quebec, which needs more than expected, et vice versa.

And this is just the beginning. More and more regions with local certificate systems will connect with each other and make their allowances mutually tradeable. The EU is no exception: expanding the certificate trade region is woven into its program, first with Australia.

The advantage of this approach: a big single global treaty is not necessary. The regions can follow individually their moral aspirations or not. Each region joining increases the factual and moral / normative power of the movement.

It is a bottom – up – process. The participants feel much less alienated compared to a process, where the formation of will must first rise to the very top, where some regulations are adopted, which subsequently take effect on the lower, local institutions. This whole process can easily be blocked by the unwilling. With the bottom – up – process, the unwilling become mere bystanders and will be bypassed.

Feels good.

(translation from my german blog post)


Texas, Syria und Indonesia and the cap-and-trade-system

A film about climate change on three spots:

Texas: Here, people believe intensively in God and that mankind cannot change big things like the climate, and that the drought, thats ruining texan agriculture is God-given. A female climate scientist, who manages to be a trusting christian at the same time, travels about and teaches the reality of climate change.

Syria: It is the former farmers, whose living has been destroyed by the long drought before the civil war, and who did get nothing from the regime, who joined the rebels first (see last blog post).

Indonesia: Here, the government is so corrupt, that it doesn’t even protect a national park from beeing converted into oil palm plantations.

40 % of world wide CO2 – emissions come from deforestation, not from human energy use!

(This is why the use of wood pellets for heating has to be scrutinized, wether the pellets come from over-exploitation. Hard to find out for imports. Generally, the motto should be “Don’t heat, insulate!”.)

Indonesia is in absolute numbers as well as per capita one of the larger emitters of GHGs in the world – only because of the astronomical emissions caused by slash-and-burn (look up here).


yearsoflivingdangerously_indonesiannationalpark_3 Image: Oil palm seedling in a slash-and-burned Indonesian national park.

There are several attempts to stop the palm oil frenzy. The EU has after long years of discussion implemented an obligation to label ingredients of food, but not before end of 2014 and with no hint of wether the palm oil comes from proper cultivation.

Emission certificates: A general emission certificate system including imports would help in this case. The importer would be obliged to buy certificates according to the emissions related to his goods. This would mean for him to give proof as to where his palm oil comes from exactly. Palm oil from slash-and-burned areas would be more expensive and less sought after.

Basically, the same arguments hold for an emission tax, if it is applied to imported goods, too.

It could be so simple… All this is far from our daily life. Still.

March 2018
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