Thomas Lee Abshier, ND
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by: Thomas Lee Abshier, ND
Inequitable Distribution of Wealth
by Thomas Lee Abshier, ND
Summary: The thermodynamic metaphor of non-equilibrium systems illustrates the principles underlying macro & micro economic phenomena that form stable pockets of inequitable wealth distribution in a land of plenty. The economic forces acting inside the flow of economy (production and consumption) act on the individual person who is the equivalent of a single molecule in a stream of water. The individual has certain characteristics, such as avoiding pain, pursuing pleasure; the ability to communicate, think, and act to produce wealth, satisfy emotional needs, and maintain survival. The individual’s external environment includes the economic climate (subprime mortgage crisis), availability of resources (oil prices), international relations (911, Iraq War), political climate (new administration), etc. The collision of the individual with the larger environment creates a disturbance in the flow of production and consumption. The local conditions of the individual’s environment (local business profitability, marital satisfaction, education, family or personal illness, etc.) interact with the person’s individual capabilities and character to produce a stable pocket of wealth or poverty. The scope of these pockets can be family, local, regional, national, or worldwide. The point being that forces, internal and external, predictably interact to stable create pockets of wealth inequity that do not reflect the larger economic welfare.
This essay took its inspiration from the article: "The Long Arm of the Second Law”, Scientific American, Oct 2008, pg. 62-68.
Economic, Political, Moral, and Natural Forces as Determinants of Wealth
by: Thomas Lee Abshier, ND
Thermodynamic theory has now been given mathematical understructure and variable names to describe the formation, persistence, and decay of local pockets of order and disorder. The conventional calculation of entropy only applies to systems at equilibrium, but turbulent systems of moving particles (and economic systems) are neither linear nor in equilibrium.
The following concept is for those interested in understanding thermodynamics, but not not necessary for understanding the metaphor of economics:
Systems in thermodynamic equilibrium systems are those in a steady state of temperature distribution.
Entropy is defined at the amount of heat in a system divided by its temperature. This rather abstract term has been used more commonly to describe the degree of randomness in a system. The entropy of a system will increase if there is friction because it will generate heat lost to increasing the temperature, and hence increase the entropy. This concept of entropy was not useful for modeling of complex systems, thus the need for the more recent advances in theory.
Linear systems are defined as changing properties at a constant rate with distance or time. But most real world systems are non-linear, given the complexity of surfaces and environments. For example, consider the case of water molecules in a stream flowing over rocky river bed and shoreline. The complex surfaces alter the velocity and direction of flow changes in a non-linear manner. Most of life is composed of nonlinear interactions between people, objects, concepts, and spirits.
Atoms and molecules behave differently depending upon the the state of the system. For example, at high temperature, water changes state from a liquid to gas, and at a low temperature, it changes state from a liquid to a solid. Fundamental to the bulk behavior is of water is its dipolar nature due to the 109 degree angle bond between the two Hydrogen atoms as they bond to Oxygen. The Hydrogen loses its electron to the Oxygen and ends up with a partial positive charge, and the Oxygen becomes partially negative. The polar nature of water causes the Hydrogen atoms on water are thus attracted to the Oxygen of other water molecules. This positive to negative attraction between water molecules is called a Hydrogen bond. This bond is low energy, but influence the local movement of the water molecules as it is jostled about by Brownian Motion, as well as its bulk behavior in freezing and boiling point.
This example was pursued in detail to illustrate that small forces at the molecular and atomic level affect the behavior of a bulk system. The dynamic interaction with gross macroscopic objects (such as the rocks on the river bed and shore) depends largely on how water molecules interact. Expanding on this concept: the atoms on a water molecule exert different forces depending on their proximity to other molecules, which in turn is influenced by the water’s velocity, purity, and environmental conditions such as pressure and temperature. Note, how people are different, and react differently based on the inner forces that drive them and weaknesses that prevent action.
Thus in general, each molecule will have a different reactivity associated with its type, which is in general related to its charge, and affinity to other charges. This fundamental force of attraction is in turn modified by its local environmental conditions, which causes the bulk behavior of the molecule to change. For example, a higher temperature molecule will have greater velocity, and thus will get closer to other atoms and molecules before being repelled by the like charges of the electron clouds. A closer proximity may allow the molecules to temporarily bind and delay the process of dissociation, causing water to have an abnormally high boiling point. The force-distance relationship will also change in the presence of contaminants, causing the bulk material properties to change. Interaction with large external forces, such as colliding with a rock in the stream, will redirect the water’s downstream energy, causing turbulence and a stable micro-environment. On its surface, turbulence does not appear to be a stable environment, but if we view “turbulence:” as a state, and the water stays in that state, then the local condition has created a stable local condition. The particulars of that state will be produced by the combination of the micro-forces of the molecular interaction (Hydrogen bonds) and the macro-forces of the environment (water colliding with rock). Note how individual characteristics interact with family, city, corporate, governmental, international forces and create the turbulent sensation of being out of control.
At lower flow rates, the disturbed local states’ stability and order depends more upon subtle forces (water flow rate, rock size, rock roughness, water temperature and purity, etc.). The system will come to a turbulent stability as it forms a turbulent local micro-environment of the stream water. These local pockets of order are not equilibrium, nor linear, but they are a type of stability in the midst of a turbulent, and high energy system. Individuals will face multitudinous factors that will exert force upon their lives. The greater the force, the more turbulent, chaotic, and unpredictable will be the local environment. There will be limits to the chaos, and there are elements of predictability, but the linear predictive cause and effect nature of the system will be limited.
The important point is that stable high or low energy states form that are outside of the expected state for the energy and organization of the macro-system. Thus, we may not be able to predict the exact size and location of an eddy or area of turbulence, with a good degree of confidence, we know that when a high velocity stream strike an obstacle to flow, that stable areas of turbulence will form in response to that collision. The same is true of people, when their lives collide with large forces, they will usually have areas where their life continues with little change, but other areas will suffer huge impacts and large stable turbulent variations in function and routine form. For example, when the economy goes into recession, hygiene and sleep may be unchanged, but marital stress and discord may be elevated.
A non-equilibrium state exists when there are a set of particles is divided into isolated subsets, and those subsets are altered in state from the bulk or average. Subsets may form because of interruptions of communication or bonding with the larger body. Particle subsets form due to forces converging to compress a system of particles. This results in local bonding, and forming a region of stable self interaction. And, given that the bulk medium is dynamic, such as in flowing water, the system has particles leaving, and coming into the stable turbulent region at the same rate. This corresponds to the life experience where one problem is solved, and another arises; it does not appear that progress is being made because the same large external force is disturbing the routine, and interfering with excellent performance of duty.
These volumes will remain stable as long as the dynamics of the system remain constant (e.g. turbulence in a stream as long as the water flows at a particular rate, pressures, temperature, purity, etc.). Regardless of the system’s stability, it will eventually change because a dynamic system cannot maintain bulk stability forever. Eventually boundary conditions will change, and the source will exhaust. Energy does not generate and flow eternally from the same source, other than from God. Thus, every local microenvironment will eventually lose its stability and form new states of order or disorder. The same is true in the life of the suffering human, when his life turns upside down due to the forces of government, economy, and nature, one can always take refuge in the fact that the circumstances and force operating in life will eventually change. The misery may change from one form to another, but life will not maintain eternal stability in one form.
This thermodynamic concept has applicability to economics and the human drama because the market is composed of billions of people-particles. Each person acts with his own set of rules of action and reaction in the marketplace of consumption and production of goods and services. Each people-particle acts according to his own inner ruleset of action and reaction as dictated by his aversion and affinities, needs, will, and ability.
Economics is defined by the bulk behavior-flow of production and consumption. The limits and characteristics of the economic flow are determined by the nature of the constituent people-particles. The individuals of any productive system may be of high potential, but with enough force can be overwhelmed and rendered ineffective.
A local environment, such as a company, city, state, nation, or world can be overwhelmed by outside forces and fall into dysfunctional low productivity. The subprime mortgage crisis, in combination with the high oil prices, has delivered a blow the world economy.
The convergence of these two forces delivered a large force to the normal flow of the economic system. The raising prime rate pushed up interest rates for mortgages, putting people who were marginally qualified for home ownership, and financed by ARMs, close to the edge. When oil prices rose, that extra expenditure put a number of mortgages in default, making the Mortgage Backed Securities go into default when Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s credit rating dropped. Such a sequence of economic facts and forces creates a change in the flow of compensation, consumption, and production. The size of the force in this case was so large that the entire world economy was thrown into turbulence, with some points of the system maintaining stability. Again, the point being that various forces can bring instability to various parts of an economic system.
Other strong forces that disturb the invisible hand of the market are monopoly, corruption, legislation, and taxes. These forces distort the normal flow of production and consumption by introducing cost disincentives that influence the behavior of the individual in protecting his self interest.
In a system with good communication, and a Godly sense of service, education, and leadership, local stable poverty could be raised to average prosperity over time. Leadership introduces forces that produce open and properly compensated knowledge transfer, corruption that reaps its appropriate consequences (e.g. bribes, dishonest measures, deficient quality, pricing inequity), sloth receives no support other than education in a skill that produces a return on the investment.
When Godly character is instilled in the perpetrators, manipulators, cheats, cons, criminals, and sloths, the largest internal source of social distortion is eliminated. The monopolistic distortion of the market is eliminated when people are willing to play fair, and take personal accountability for the actions and moral judgments of the corporation.
In a transparent system, the important pieces of the economic engine coordinate with each other. Finance, energy, transportation, communication, and regulation, etc are applied morally, moderated, and appropriate throughout the system. When people care about raising the quality of life of those caught in locally depressed states, the inhomogeneous domains of the economy eventually smooth out. Every individual should be trained to produce at optimum, consume modestly, and receive appropriate compensation.
When individuals are separated into isolated environments that create or reinforce fears, anger, and sorrow they can develop stable suboptimal behavior far from normal, optimal, and moderate. Rehabilitation should include development of proper behaviors, desires, activity, and will, so as to bring the stable dysfunctional individual into the group norm.
The forces of perversion and destruction produce suboptimal conditions of economic flow, political organization, and restriction of freedom. Changing a local system after it has established a dysfunctional stability requires penetrating that system with an organizing energy. Energy can be injected as education in life and trade skills, while withdrawing support for dysfunction. The heart must be changed to effect such a change, so integral to training must be tutelage in the Word of God, accountability and consequences, both reward and punishment for following the way of Right thought, speech, and actions.
Monopolies, governmental corruption (bribes), dynastic ownership, societal ignorance, worship of false gods and idolatry all produce stable systems where a few profit while many suffer. To overthrow the conditions that allow the continuation of these suboptimal economic eddies, the system must be disturbed. Prayer, forgiveness, love and Righteousness are the foundations of any proactive action. Having clearly identified the pathological disturbing forces in a family, business, corporation, judiciary, legislature, administration, we may then choose the best strategy for interceding in the eliminating the disturbing forces. Many common tools have been used including: counseling, personal meetings, expert testimony, peaceful public demonstrations, letters to the editor, lawsuits, boycotts, strikes, and media campaigns. Each of these may have their place, but most important, it must be guided by a sense of propriety and service, rather than revenge. Once the perverting social/economic/political force is eliminated, the Godly patterns of conduct may reemerge and bring the larger system to a greater state of health, relationship, and productivity.
When the bulk system is decaying, the natural sequences of pain require confronting all the players in the system, both leaders and followers. When large systems are in states of extreme inequity of wealth distribution, such as corporation executives versus workers; dictator versus the serf and peasant class; an intervention must break the habitual stability of the inequity. Revolution is one way, but education, pubic education through the media, and passive resistance can also produce change. There is a time for force, but all other options should be exhausted. When the people will not participate in the immorality of a nation, corporation, or family, the system has lost its power. The best revolution is led by God and overthrows the false gods in men’s hearts.
The capitalistic system of commerce lends itself well to a natural gradient of proper compensation for production. The reward of work should be related to production in a rough parity. If an executive makes millions, we must be sure that his compensation is not being used as a faustian bargain, which gives him the courage to sell his soul in various ways. Again, the compensation across the entire economic system should be roughly commensurate with production, and all market advantage should be motivated by service, rather than simply profitable. Since the prurient and avaricious drives of men can be used to appeal and make profits, each entrepreneur, executive, and worker should take the fruit of his production personally, and say “no” to giving life to the immoral and unGodly.
There should be no a fixed maximum compensation for a man’s service, rather, there should be a market based relationship between compensation and production, and the market should be fairly open to movement by allowing the disgruntled to relocate to a competitor. Such mobility should be executed on the individual business level, rather than forced by administrative law.
When the pay has become inequitable, the employee should intervene and advocate for fairness. Ideally, such clear communication may be the only force necessary to disturb the system and bring equitability to the individual system. The same standard should be applied to the other systems of life, including family, boss, employees, corporation, and government. When we hold Godly standards, speak our truth with love, expect to be heard, and relentlessly advocate for Righteousness, the disturbing forces of the system will eventually crumble, and goodness with rule.
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