Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Unity of Law by Henry Charles Carey

Hi all, this post consists of notes I made when I was reading through The Unity of Law. Not terribly interesting but to maybe one or two people who suggested that I read this book.

Pg viii- man starts with the poorest axes and poorest soils and improves upon both so the land yields ever larger returns. This is not so different than the green position of "leave the land in better shape than you found it."

Pg ix- Soils, if not properly nurtured, do indeed suffer from diminishing returns, entire civilizations have been brought down by this fact. Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations

Pg x – Mr. Carey recognizes the true wealth, the increase of the bounty of nature. Population growth and productivity do not grow in tandem, returns on land increase, then population increases, when the limit is near the pressure drives further innovation. Carey presupposes this can continue ad infinitum.

Pg xii- Mr. Carey makes the argument since force can neither be created or destroyed the multiplication of human force must result in man usurping the force of nature and repurposing it for his needs. If that is so then we need to consider carefully for which we use this force and not to use it frivolously (i.e. fashion shows, advertisements, financial industry, etc).

Pg xiv- I get the feeling that when this book was written numbers of men were a necessary precondition to subverting and claiming more force. Mr. Carey assumes a static process for progress. He also ties progress as a function of population (ie the greater the population the greater the progress). If population was the key then why have nations like Britain and the US established empires while nations like China and India are only now reaching their ascendancy?

pg XX-Putting humanity on a pedestal.

Pg. 2- He nicely illustrates the flaws of neoclassical economics: exclusions.

Xxi- Mr. Carey states the mind is the only source of power.

P4- focussed on using power to become the master of nature rather than the steward of nature.

6- Mr. Carey makes the error is assuming the forces of nature are "gratuitous". Same mistake Henry Hazlitt makes, indeed all neoclassical economists make.

Pg9- preciseness of language.

P20- Mr. Carey spends pages stating that the lowest quality of soil is cultivated first and the productivity of the soil increased with technology. He says history demonstrates this and it most emphatically does not, the easier to cultivate soil was exploited first and as technology leapt ahead made it possible to cultivate lesser soils at an acceptable return.

Pg 46- Mr. Carey follows reductionist thinking that by understanding the parts of the machine it is possible to replicate the entire machine.

Pg 47 - no doubt referring to Newton's laws which do not apply at the quantum level.

Pg 61- Mr. Carey refutes Adam Smiths motivations of man as being solely defined by material benefit. This is to be applauded.

Pg 62-irony in the Goethe quote that is explicitly non-reductionist.

Pg 78-96 attempting to draw a parallel between the gravitation of physics and the aspect of association. Heavy doses of social Darwinism, the more intellectual the man, the greater the diversity, the more perfect man becomes.

Pg 98 - states that the power of association exists everywhere and is necessary to recycle materials and energy but places a premium of mans association above all others?

Pg 101-individuality vs. centralization seems to be the ancestor of the individualism vs. collectivism argument.

Pg 102 – “the more society tends to conform to the laws that govern our system of worlds.” I assume he means the natural laws of physics, if so where does unrestrained exploitation of the natural environment fit in to that? Assumes the position of controller does not mean exploiter. With control comes responsibility, without which, becomes nothing more than exploitation of master and slave, no harmony can be had.

Pg 103 - his argument does not carry weight for soil. This assumes that farmers cannot recognize what constitutes good soil vs. poor soil. Of course the good soil would be exploited first. Eventually that agricultural land would be built over and lesser soils would be utilized because farming techniques made it possible to exploit which otherwise would be to arduous to work.

Pg 122: Nature being a sum of never varying energy. Nothing that man does can alter that total. This is false. Even if it was true, by its own logic man could shift the total from usable to non-usable energy.

Pg 132 I wonder if the exactness of subordination applies to Nature or if it must be imposed.

Pg 145 - if self-direction tends towards perfection and perfection results in a more equitable distribution then why the concentration of wealth?

Pg 148- with the increase in population why has the capacity for self-direction (which grows in tandem with association) not resulted in peace? Why have the magnitude and frequency of war increased as population increased?

Pg 159 if power of self-direction allows us to increase association and thus wealth, where does competition play a role in this? If two men train their power of self-direction on a goal in which the end result is only one may own it, does not this power get blunted by interfering with the other and lessening the effect of association?

Pg 174 - HC puts great emphasis on the diversification of employment and also states that those that do not give back to the earth inevitably starve. Some of this employment may be had with the maintenance and improvement of the Earth's ecosystems.

Pg 175. Production increases and consumption rises to meet that increase. This is Jevon's Paradox. This is not a desirable thing inasmuch that most of the consumption increase occurs with those that are already rich.

Pg 197- monopolies destroy association thus is undesired.

Pg 206 - the societary positives and negatives do not exist in a vacuum. People are the catalyst, but they require the raw material provided by the environment.

Pg 207 - speaking in ill terms about the tariff of 1824 makes me wonder if the power of association cannot be equally applied as an argument for globalization.

Pg 215 - that capital over labour, matter over mind leads inevitably to rebellion is a damning statement against capitalism.

Pg 234- he is describing exponential growth "wealth greater than in all the time since the Mayflower landed in Massachusetts."

“If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.” Herbert Stein, Economist

Pg-258 economies consist of both consumers and producers, an ecosystem consists of the same, except that in nature there is no waste. Thus the economy, as robust as it is, is a pale comparison to an ecosystem. For an economy to be as vital and sustainable as the environment must be as waste free. All waste product must be recycled into new product.

Pg 280 - when Carey talks about how much better Britain would be if they paid India a fair price for their materials so they in turn could serve as a market for Britains more highly refined trades seems to imply that this relationship can be amplified continually for even greater heights of wealth for both countries. It could be but for physical limits of resources.

Pg 283 - Mr. Carey's argument is entirely contextual. He is right in so much as Malthus was wrong, temporally speaking. At the time the population about a billion, the carbon footprint/ecological footprint of each person was a fraction of what the average North American has. In Carey's time poverty was a distribution problem brought on by British short-sighted mercantilism. Today a similar argument could be made but for the physical limits we are hitting in terms of energy and resources.

310 - it is as if Carey was saying that if the wealth was spread around more equally that self-respect and mutual respect increased. The question of what to do about the poor only becomes a question in a society that encourages inequality.

314 - Carey seems to imply that Malthus's theory, given in its context, was a justification of the riches misdeeds and an absolution of whatever obligation the rich may have to the poor. Just like any economic ideology, a justification to be unapologetically rich. I would tend to agree, in this context, Carey was correct. Malthus had no idea what the ultimate carrying capacity was.

376 - the always gratuitous services of nature implies that their is no cost to man. That value stands as a substitute for resistance, that value increases as the cost to man increases in no way accounts for the cost to nature and the cost to its ability to renew.

384 - in the context, to avoid fever, dryer lands were selected while more fertile lands where left uncultivated. Certainly this is a fluke in the history of mankind as generally more fertile soils are cultivated first (Egyptian delta). A fluke brought about as one of the few native diseases that affected the settlers disproportionately (see Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond). This one instance does not a trend make. Also Carey has a peculiar definition of rich lands. He refers to "undrained" rich lands which by definition without the investment of substantial intervention are unusable. Lands that are easiest to cultivate are lands that are cultivated first.

391 - again on the definition of soil richness. Rich soil is defined as its ability to bear crop in proportion to the preparation it requires in either labour or technology. If it isn't usable until much labour is expended or certain technologies are invented to exploit the soil profitably, then it isn't rich. It is similar to saying we'll never run out of land or energy because we have a whole universe to exploit. We might have a whole universe, but without the proper tools it is unavailable to us. We will never want for food as long as we have rocks that we can transform into food through magical alchemy.

392- increased consumption goes hand in hand with increased production. We could theoretically support a much increased population if we consumed as did our ancestors did, but we consume at a much greater rate. Something has to give. Also what if we hit cognitive limits as well as physical limits? The point where more people doesn't result in an increase in the power of association nor an increase in the power of self-direction? Case in point, the modern laptop. Put one average person in the room and ask him to explain how it works, reverse engineer it, and build a new one. Increase the numbers, put 10 people in the room, 100, 1000, 10, what point do you acknowledge that knowledge has become so specialized and intricate that the complexity cannot be replicated by any number of average people without access to highly rigorous and specialized education?

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