A Review of Carey King’s ‘The Economic Superorganism’

King, C. W. (2020). The Economic Superorganism: Beyond the Competing Narratives on Energy, Growth, and Policy. Springer Nature.

If you are interested in the megatrends of the 21st century, then Carey King’s new book The Economic Superorganism should be on your reading list. It is a well-written, meticulously researched opus on how to understand the sustainability problems that face humanity.

In many ways, the book covers well-trodden ground. King is an engineer who is trained in the systems thinking pioneered by MIT engineers Donella and Dennis Meadows. (The Meadows’ book The Limits to Growth was the original gauntlet drop in the debate about the future of economic growth). Like the Meadows, King is concerned with the biophysical limits of the economy, and how that relates to the exploitation of energy.

Several other recent books have delved into the role of energy in driving economic growth. (For instance, Energy and the Wealth of Nations and The Economic Growth Engine). Yet King’s book is unique, because he has framed his arguments in a surprising way.1 He has focused on narratives.

Energy narratives

Before discussing King’s narrative framework, it’s worth pausing for some reflection. Scientists who study the biophysical limits of the human economy run head-on into a cultural divide between the natural and social sciences. These ‘two cultures’ (as C.P. Snow called them) do not speak the same language.

I can testify to this divide. I have had many frustrating conversations with social scientists who are incredulous that the laws of thermodynamics apply to human societies. (They do.) And I have had equally frustrating conversations with natural scientists (particularly physicists) who insist that there must be a simple equation that describes human behavior. (There is not.)

Reading ‘Superorganism’, I can tell that King has had similar discussions. His response is brilliant. He grounds the hard core of his ideas in the principles of physics and systems science. Yet he frames the debate about these ideas in terms of narratives. The result is a surprisingly non-polemic book that will entice both natural-science and social-science readers.

The linchpin in King’s thesis is the narrative framework shown below — a divide in how we see the future of humanity. Techo-optimists believe there are no inherent limits to growth, because human ingenuity can solve all of our problems. Techno-realists, in contrast, think infinite growth on a finite planet is impossible.

Figure 1: Carey King’s narrative framework.

Today, these opposing worldviews, King observes, play out most prominently in the debate between fossil-fuel advocates and proponents of renewable energy. Fossil-fuel advocates tend to be techno-optimists, while renewable proponents tend to be techo-realists. Looking at the subtleties in these worldviews, however, King notes that they can be technology specific. Renewables proponents are often techo-realists about fossil fuels, but can be techno-optimists about the potential of renewable energy. (This was an ‘aha!’ moment for me … an idea that was suddenly made clear by King’s narrative framework.)

By focusing on energy narratives, King deftly bridges the gap between the natural and social sciences. As a result, there is something in the book for everyone.

Let’s start with people trained in the social sciences. Many social scientists will be intrinsically interested in King’s analysis of narratives. The result (I hope) is that they will be receptive when he weaves into these narratives basic principles of thermodynamics. King’s description of how physicists define and measure ‘energy’, ‘power’, and ‘work’ is among the best I have encountered.

Also interesting to social scientists is King’s fluency with philosophy. Science, King argues, is based on a belief in induction — the idea that we can generalize narrow observations to arrive at universal laws. The philosopher David Hume famously argued that there are no purely logical grounds for using inductive reasoning. Nonetheless, it is how most scientists think.

As an example, King notes that we cannot prove that the laws of thermodynamics hold everywhere. All we can do is show that no experiment has ever contradicted these laws. Scientists therefore assume that the laws of thermodynamics are universal, applying to atoms, animals, and economies. This is the scientific and philosophical underpinning of ‘techno-realism’. It is a worldview based on the cumulative weight of evidence.

Now to what ‘Superorganism’ brings to those trained in the natural sciences. To the natural scientist, the social sciences appear as a dizzying array of mutually conflicting theories that have persisted for centuries. Nothing similar exists in the natural sciences. What’s going on here?

The answer is that in the social sciences, narratives are king. When you look under the hood of many social-science theories (such as neoclassical economics or Marxism), there is little empirical content. Instead, there is a compelling narrative. The adherents of different social-science schools are captivated by the narrative, and the resulting worldview it justifies. By dissecting the narratives around the limits to growth, King gives context to ideas that are otherwise difficult (for the natural scientist) to understand.

A ‘techno-realist’ himself, King does an admirable job of presenting opposing arguments, often letting ‘techno-optimists’ speak for themselves. As a result, ‘Superorganism’ is a veritable compendium of techno-optimist remarks. Here, for instance, is King quoting Milton Friedman on how to tell if a resource is exhaustible:

… economically you have a very simple test of whether anything is an exhaustible resource, namely: is its price rising over time?

Milton Friedman (1978)

King resists the urge to ridicule Friedman’s narrative, but instead patiently breaks down its reasoning and flaws.2

‘Superorganism’ is at its best in Chapter 3, where King applies his narrative framework to the fossil fuels versus renewables debate. Having read this chapter after the recent Texas blackouts, I found it remarkably prescient. King anticipates much of the rhetoric that followed the blackouts. With little evidence, many pundits blamed the grid failure on renewables, which they deemed ‘unreliable’.

King (a Texan himself) anticipates this narrative, and breaks it down by focusing on the concept of ‘reliability’. What we perceive as ‘reliable’ (or not) depends on the time-frame we chose to analyze. Do we mean ‘reliable’ over seconds, minutes, days, years, or decades? Wind, King points out, can be unreliable over the time-frame of days. But it is highly reliable over the time-frame of years and decades. Coal, in contrast, is reliable over days and months. But it is likely to be unreliable over decades (as the resource is exhausted).

King’s patient analysis of the competing energy narratives is a welcome break from the polemics that are common in popular discourse.

The HARMONEY model

In ‘Superorganism’, King’s main technical contribution is his HARMONEY model. This is a systems model similar to the World3 model used in The Limits to Growth. But what is important about HARMONEY is that it incorporates monetary dynamics such as income distribution and debt. Hence the model’s name … HARMONEY … which stands for ‘Human And Resources with MONEY’. (For details about the model, see this paper.)

Figure 2 shows King’s key result. Without tuning it to do so, the HARMONEY model predicts that as resource use plateaus, the wage share of income should decline (top right). It so happens that this is exactly what ocurred in the United States. As energy use (per person) plateaued, the wage share of income plummeted (top left). HARMONEY also predicts that after resource use peaks, debt (as a share of GDP) should explode and then later peak (bottom right). Again, the model’s prediction is eerily similar to US history (bottom left).

Figure 2: Results from King’s HARMONEY model. Top left: the wage share of income in the US declined as energy use per person plateaued. Top right: King’s HARMONEY model predicting the same phenomenon. Bottom left: The growth and peak of US corporate and financial debt. Bottom right: King’s HARMONEY model predicting the same phenomenon.

Of course, if you are familiar with modeling, you know that just because a model gives ‘good results’ does not mean that it is ‘correct’. The assumptions behind the model must also be consistent with evidence. Given HARMONEY’s intriguing results, I’ve marked it on my to do list to have a good look at the model’s foundations.

One more thing to mention is that HARMONEY does not use an aggregate production function. This is important, because there are many problems with such functions. Perhaps the most glaring flaw is that the standard production function (the Cobb-Douglas) is a tautology. It is a rearrangement of a national accounting identity. Hence, when systems modelers use such a function, they undermine what may otherwise be a sound model.3 By not using a production function, HARMONEY avoids this misstep.

The economy as a ‘superorganism’

To move beyond the competing narratives about energy and the economy, King suggests we adopt a new narrative — ‘the economy as a superorganism’. I have mixed feelings about this metaphor.

The ‘superorganism’ narrative works well for emphasizing the biophysical nature of the economy. Like an organism, human societies use resources to maintain and grow their structure. That’s a nice way to emphasize biophysical constraints on the economy.

Where the superorganism narrative falls short, however, is that it tends to downplay conflict. Yes, humans do cooperate much like the cells within organisms. But we also fight. We commit crime. We exploit one another. We go to war. True, there is conflict within organisms — for instance between cancer cells and the immune system — but it is a poor allegory for human conflict.

We can improve the superorganism narrative, I think, by making two changes. First, we switch from singular to plural — superorganism to superorganisms. This switch to plural emphasizes that there is competition between human groups. Today, we (arguably) have a single world economy. But this is a historical anomaly. Throughout most of history, there were many competing factions of humanity — competing superorganisms.

Second, we should place these human superorganisms in the context of major evolutionary transitions. The effect of doing so is to emphasize internal conflict. The major evolutionary transitions, if you’re not familiar, are leaps in how life organized. Life began, presumably, as self-replicating molecules. Somehow these molecules transitioned into organizing in groups of proteins and DNA. From these proteins came prokaryotic cells, which later merged to form eukaryotic cells. These eukaryotes then grouped together to form multi-cellular organisms. And finally, some multi-cellular organisms began to organize in large groups, paving the way for the first ‘superorganisms’.

What’s important about these major transitions is that they all involve suppressing competition. Autonomous agents that once competed with one another (cell vs. cell, animal vs. animal) evolved to cooperate. The degree to which there is cooperation (rather than competition) is the degree to which a new ‘individual’ emerges. In other words, we conceive of multicellular organisms as ‘individuals’ precisely because there is so little competition between the constituent cells. The human transition to ‘superorganism’, in contrast, is far less complete. There remains rampant conflict within human groups. Placing human ‘superorganisms’ within the context of major evolutionary transitions acknowledges this internal conflict.

To be fair, King does adopt an evolutionary framework in his discussion of the economic superorganism. But he focuses on the gene-meme approach promoted by Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett. My opinion is that the human transition to ‘superorganisms’ is better understood using the theory of multi-level selection and cultural evolution proposed by David Sloan Wilson and Peter Turchin (among others).4 I won’t split hairs, however, as a book review is not the place to debate basic tenets of evolutionary biology.

A bitter pill

Speaking of evolutionary thinking, it is when considering neoclassical economics from an evolutionary standpoint that King is most poignant. Could it be, he asks, that “economies organized via neoclassical economics are more fit … than those organized via other economic systems and rules”? King shudders at the possibility:

For me, it is a bitter pill to swallow to even contemplate that this hypothesis might be true. I never imagined I would write that neoclassical economics might have some enhanced usefulness over more biophysically based approaches to economic modeling. At this time, neoclassical economics is clearly the most pervasive economic meme. As a cultural construct, it is winning the evolutionary game of self-replication.

This is indeed a bitter pill … one that I have been forced to swallow myself.5 Fortunately, admitting that neoclassical economics is winning the game of evolution does not require a scientific concession. That’s because false ideas often beat out true ones. (Hence the success of Donald Trump.) For this reason, evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson argues that successful belief systems are often “massively fictional in their portrayal of the world.”6

In the game of evolution, Wilson observes, it is not a belief system’s scientific veracity that matters. What’s important is its affect on human behavior. If those who hold worldview X outcompete people with worldview Y, worldview X spreads. Only in rare circumstances, however, will worldview X be the same as the scientific truth. That’s because the scientific truth is singular, but the range of possible worldviews is practically infinite.

Back to economics. For those of us who are concerned with sustainability, it’s worth speculating about why neoclassical economics has spread. To do so, we can return to King’s narrative framework (Figure 1). Neoclassical economists tend to be ‘techno-optimists’ who believe that economic growth can continue indefinitely. And it’s easy to understand why they hold this worldview: the neoclassical model omits the biophysical basis of human society.

In a full world, this omission is likely to be suicidal in the long run. But neoclassical economics did not originate in a full world. It originated in an empty one.7 In this empty world, it was the societies that expanded the fastest that won. Now think of the cultural differences between the winners and the losers. The winners were Europeans, who pursued imperialist policies with no regard for the inhabitants (human or otherwise) of the regions they conquered. The losers were indigenous populations, who were keenly aware of resource limits.

In the (over)full world towards which we’re headed, my guess (hope?) is that neoclassical economics will become a losing belief system. The question is, what will replace it? King hopes (as do I) that it will be replaced by a biophysical understanding of the economy. On that front, King’s book, with its focus on narratives, is a step in the right direction. That’s because when it comes to belief systems, narrative is king.

The energy conversation

King’s ‘Superorganism’ is an important contribution to the sustainability discussion. It helps make sense of the competing worldviews that dominate political debates, while also highlighting the physical principles that govern human economies.

On the final page of ‘Superorganism’, King writes:

Too often people use the energy and economic narratives to speak past each other rather than engage in thoughtful conversations on these tradeoffs.

I hope this book better enables these conversations.

In the on-going discussion about sustainability and energy, people will likely continue to speak past each other. Still, for those who are willing to listen, King’s book is a welcome addition to the conversation.

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  1. If King was trained in the humanities, his focus on narratives would be unsuprising. But he is trained as a hard-nosed engineer, which makes his narrative focus unexpected (to me, at least).
  2. You can read my critique of Friedman’s reasoning here.
  3. Here’s an example of undermining a systems model using a neoclassical production function. In his book Managing Without Growth, Peter Victor constructs a nuanced systems model based on biophysical and social feedbacks. But to ‘predict’ GDP (in the model), Victor feeds his results through a Cobb-Douglas production function. The effect, in my mind, is to undermine the whole model.
  4. For an overview of multilevel selection and cultural evolution, see David Sloan Wilson’s book This View of Life and Peter Turchin’s book Ultrasociety.
  5. See my reflection on the spread of free-market ideology: The Free Market as a Double Lie.
  6. Quoted from Wilson’s book Darwin’s Cathedral.
  7. The ‘empty’ world is Herman Daly’s tongue-in-cheek portrayal of the Earth before industrialization, when humanity was an insignificant speck on the biosphere. See Daly’s article Economics in a Full World.


  1. Blair,

    Two book recommendations on “human superorganism” theme that you might find useful:

    Niccolo Leo Caldararo (2017) “Big Brains and the Human Superorganism: Why Special Brains Appear in Hominids and Other Social Animal”

    John Gowdy (2021) “Ultrasocial: The Evolution of Human Nature and the Quest for a Sustainable Future”

  2. This is a good review of what looks to be a good book—though I think it covers ground thats has been discussed for decades (or centuries).

    it does appear to have some refinements or new insights or emphasis and up to date data..


    The Lucifer Principle and The global brain (i think 1995 and 2000) by H Bloom—a nonscientist but very perceptive –are in my memory (i read these awhile back) very general but modern social analyses in terms of ‘superorgrnisms’.

    I also think ‘superorganisms’ as a metaphor goes back to 1800s in various forms.

    these all tend to be ‘grand synthesis’. Spengler’s Decline of the West i put in same category. And P Turchin’s writings—-. Even if all these writers dont explicitly use term superoganism.


    Regarding ‘refiniments” of a theory I am wary of new books or papers that reinvent the wheel.–some of these appear to me just by people who haven’t read much of what is already out there .

    But sometimes they are just transitions to ‘less confusion’ (hopefully)–or a new formalism (as calculus was reformulated in modern notation from Newton’s ‘fluxions’) .

    (‘Superogranism’ is a sort of transition from early darwinism and h spencer –i might P Kropotkin had one of first in that line–it may be Engels’ ‘primitive communism’ had something similar tho i’ not familiar with his stuff .

    (Physics –i might say especially statistical mechanics is my favorite example — wet through many ‘refinements’ from Boltzmann to the present day –i’d almost say there were 5-7 ‘revolutions’ –or ‘major transitions—- of statistical mechanics.

    Same is sort of true for other fields of physics, math, logic, ‘darwinism’ or evolution, post/neo/classical economics etc.

    ‘Democracy’ also went through transitions. English language does as well.

    To an extent its sort of hard to say if any of these concepts is stable enough to refer to a ‘single thing’–i think they are but in the same sense all species are a single thing (a herd of elephants is just a modified or evolved bacteria) as a a butterfly.

    See D’arcy thomspon’s ‘l;aws of form’ .


    There are so many disucssions of applications of thermodynamics and statistical mechanics to social systems you might be able to filll a library with them.

    They vary from metaphor to rigorous, though the rigorous ones by scientists at times disagree with each other.

    (I just came across a sort of book by an authentic engineer ((in renewable energy) who knows his physics who has a side project writing on ’empathy as entropy’. (or something)–i diownloaded his book but havent read it–its free).

    He even has equations–but i dought he uses that theory in his lab or even in meetings where it should be applicable

    .(It appears he uses classical thermodynamics formalism– F = E – TS …not to my taste.

    i prefer p ~ exp (-E/kT ) or variants (boltzmann) .

    i think the latter is a sort of ‘cobbs-douglas’ form while the former is tte equivalent accounting identity form

    (‘ll have to look at Shaik’s paper on cobbs-douglas again. i’d seen it before , thought i understood and agreed with it, but now forget what that HUMBUG diagram represents.

    Also i want to see what other people think of Shaik’s paper. )

    I view cobbs-souglas as a first approximation as is classical economics (barter economy). neoclassical introduced money and institutions, etc. in the model. then you had externalities, herman dally, evolving preferences, etc. and more

    I’m sort of working on my own model. It has some ‘narrratives’ but these are more like ‘toy examples’. (eg like a vibrating string or the Bohr atom or ising model in physics–these simple models can get you alot of physics both conceptually and technically. . also my approach emphasizes some basic math (which can go into stratosphere with a few added details –eg from a 2 person 2 goods economy to a 7 billion person one) .

    one can assume a representative again and assume all the billions are the same. you can even assume a representative agent even if the 7 billion are all different. you just need a corrrect average –over quarks, electros, planets, corporations etc.


    • Hi Ishi,

      I think where King’s books is unique is it’s use of the superorganism narrative to explore energy. Many other books have used that metaphor (or ‘ultrasocial’, or some variant). But this is one of the first books to tie that narrative to energy.

  3. Hi Blair —

    i looked some more at your blog—its quite extensive (bio, articles, etc.) .


    (as an aside I once met D S Wilson–had an interview , and stayed at his house to talk about grad study. (i gather he has since retired at least from teaching).

    He said he had only 1 open position —

    and basically the choice was between me and some other person (who was a recent grad unlike me)

    who DSW told me said he had

    ‘derived all of theoretical population genetics from first principals’.

    I figured i didn’t have a chance so i decided to save my application fee and never mailed it in–

    there was a 50% chance it was a waste of money .

    (i decided i could invest my application fee in stock market and a start up and retire in a year instead—-
    100% probability).


    i’ve read alot of DSW’s papers –i think his classics are in PNAS — and my view DSW doesn’t even know

    ‘all of theoretical population genetics’ (TPG) . and noone does.

    https;//arxiv.org/abs/1104.2854 may be a bit closer to ‘all’ — maybe 1/4th of the way to infinity.

    (current theoretical genetics is actually quite a bit past that and even more useless).

    (one co-author- barton–also made a mistake in another paper—

    though that may have been ideological—after more or less ‘rigorously proving group / MLS selection

    –with no less than a variant of Feynman path integrals (i think Feynman-Kac formula —

    for classical, not quantum-systems—-

    he later backed off his claim in a later paper.
    ‘I proved this but don’t believe it’. ‘i believe what is popular –i believe what i am told to believe’

    One of DSW’s students who studied group selection also joined a group of other ‘scholars/academics’
    in a ‘reply’; to one of DSW and E O Wilson’s papers (EOW had swtiched sides, while DSW’s student
    had switched sides–went against his mentor. Barton may have signed that letter wjhich was
    published somewhere–i read alot but dont remember where i read it. .

    I think Barton has more recently swtiched back–has a fairly recent paper on GWAS studies .

    GWAS studies in genetics are similar to the assumption in classical economics that

    ‘preferences are fixed’—eg the book by R Plomin’ (famous behavioral geneticist)—‘blueprint’ —

    the idea is humans are born with a blueprint rather than blank slate.

    so ‘no amount of advertizing, income, peer pressure, education or anything else
    will change your beliefs, interests or behavior’. ‘govt policy also has no affect—
    some people just prefer to go to war to fight for their country and and come back in a wheelchair,
    or drink polluted water rather than buy spring water, and breath polluted air.’


    DSW has changed some views so is 1/5th of the way to ‘all’ or ‘inifnity’; used to be just 1/6th.
    Dawkins is 1/7th of the way there.

    ( also i was adherent of ‘west coast school’ of MLS (not DSW’s ‘viscous theory’ —
    only applicable in simple cases ) so he suggested i go there—
    i been there and basically dont like the west coast except for visits. not my territory–

    i do have places there i own which are also named after me


    i’m selling this one if you are interested,
    the salmon, water, bears , air, sunlight and gold are not included but we can solve the
    ‘aggregation problem’ and come up with a reasonable price.
    one alternative would be just to buy
    the air, light, water flora and fauna and fires rather than the land—
    just bring a truck to pick up your merchandise and put it on some other land .


    Also DSW told me my ‘job’ as a grad student was to ‘run his computer’ —
    he showed me what he was working on (since published–fairly nice—
    but i showed him some papers which did basicially the same thing but using more math and fewer
    computer simulations .

    I had told him before the interview that i didnt want a program based on doing computer simulations.

    He can hire a computer to do those..
    (other academics in economics and psychology i met hired indian or chinese grad students to run their


    Your paper in PLOS (origin of inequality) and the one on ”the aggregation problem’ are good.

    2nd one is more fundametnal. (i’m tired of writing this—good blog).

  4. Just a few added comments.

    1. I looked at your 2019 RWER paper (evolutionary theory of resrouce distn) .

    You really found some ‘ancient history’ I was unaware of –John Bates Clark. Apparently he had it down a centruy ago.

    (I did know that Paul Krugman got besides the ‘Noble’ a prize named in Clark’s honor.

    On a scale of 0 -100 i sort of give Krugman a 50.

    ( In contrast, K Arrow and P Samuelson I give 80’s rating. They may have been somewhat conservative and ‘neoclassical’ but at least they seemed to be able to make coherent semi-mathematical narratives or arguments.

    Krugman may actually be like Clark—from ‘communist to capitalist’ —and H Spencer (who switched from supporting ‘womyn’s rights’ and the abolition of ‘hereditary wealth’ in 1800s to opposing female right to vote and confistication and distribution of wealth after people died. )

    Krugman’s papers on ‘free trade’ , ‘lump of labor’, and ‘income distribution’ i view as internally inconsistant. Its like he writes a paper proving that 1+1=2 and then in the conclusion says 1+1 = either 0,3, or -1.

    It may be ‘ideological’–‘don’t bite the hand that feeds’.


    Some critics (eg J B Rosser who wrote ‘catasrophe and chaos in economic theory’ ) suggested Krugman got some of his ideas from papers published before by a more obscure economic geographer . Krugman said he hadnt seen them.


    Clark apparently he came up in 1899 the theory of ‘marginal productivity’ that I attributed to Arrow , Hahn, Debreu, Mantel etc classic ‘proof ‘ of General Equilibrium Theory (GET) from 1950’s or so. (Its basically
    say’s law S=D. a tautology.)

    (All them went on to basically disprove GET in 60’s and 70’s —- —“Darwinism’ sort of went through same evolution, as did statistical physics and ‘mechanics’ (from classical to quantum—and maybe that is even going to go into history as a ‘special case’).
    Some of best ‘darwinism is fisher ‘s beanbag genetics from 1930’s –its absurd but mathematically nice.

    with a very few changes ‘beanbag genetics turns into modern theoretical population genetics which looks like statistical physics. (you just turn a standard, classical diffusion into a nonlnear diffusion –just change constants to nonlnienear functions —eg from a to a(x) or a(x,t) or a(x, y, z…t, t’ , t2, etc).
    Some physics has more than one time variable.

    Actually the famous paper by Feynman on ‘path integrals’ in 1940s and related ones by Kac pretty much have all the current math–though these were predated by other papers going back 30 years before—each had bits and pieces. I think van Kampen in 1960’s wrote the simple version (buried in some conference proceeedings.)


    (I just read a later description of GET in Israel and Ingrao’s book ‘the invisible hand’ (whcih can be found free online. And i only hear dabout that book from a brief review in old copy of Am Math Monthly.)

    I sort of like the marginal theory of productivity. For example when my small start up of which i am the CEO (and General—- my start up has a security firm to stop shoplifitng which I lead and am in that role am designated General Strike) which was called USSA (United Soviet States of America– russia is the newest and 51st state of USSA) but may change its name to National Mall of America –you can buy the US Capital, Supreme Court, Lincoln, Jefferson and MLK mermorials there, the Washington monument, and a white house–or rent it ) ,


    as CEO i get paid for giving orders.

    the more orders i give, and the more people who follow my orders, the more i get paid.

    while my firm following the ideology of proudhon, bakunin and kropotkin is essentially non-heiriechical i do have employees who do HR, are management consultants, and a securtity firm (i am the General of that ).

    we also have an MBA program and mental health counselors and a pharmacy–
    who explain to any unhappy employees ‘the problems are all in your head–take a pill’.


    2. I note from your twitter acct you are aware of ‘ergodicity economics’ (ole peters). I view his papers as somewhat similar to yours in that they are current well written summaries/reviews of ideas that have been around for decades .—-

    but the older papers are often a morass of confusion .

    his papers seem more mathematical whiile yours are more applied , historical and data driven.


    3. I view alot of ‘neo/classical’ as well as ‘neo/darwinian/ models as symptoms of a problem.

    my view is the ‘root problem’ is the ‘meritocracy’.

    are the key variables ideology, culture. energy, entropy, genes or all of them and more?

    (Though riddled with a few errors of interpretation E O Wilson’s and C J Lumsden’s ‘genes mind culture’
    while not discussing energy explicitly does discusss genes and evolution—though EOW and even DSW
    can veer into genetic reductionist explanations if their math fails them. I am agnostic on genetic
    reductionism but my view is the plausible alternative is people just dont know enough math.)

    the few people i know in this area (some with very advanced degrees) are definately still stuck in decades old reasoning.

    the kind of theoretical biology i used to read (and still do to an extent) was already using Reimaniian geometry to describe ecosystems.

    other people still seem to think an ecosystem is just a random collection of floras and faunas. if they had a zoo it would be one cage —- it would include tigers, bears, seals, tourists and the gift shop all in one cage.

    at our local zoo (which has a big only partly developed property i used to sleep on —i had a cliff where i could be dry even if it was snowing and there was an endangered wild species that lived near there— they had a yearly ‘family day’ many people went to—they basically cancelled it because for several years in a row there were gunfights–people settling scores with enemies and they knew where they would be .


    4. I was unaware that H Simon developed that hierarchical math model of income distribution0—i saw it in another paper which i dont think refernced Simon. .

    there are some other models that use ‘maximum entropy’–all of them are flawed and i think they are closely related . discrete dynamical systems can give same solutions as MaxEnt–something which goes back to boltzmann and gibbs but i saw in papers on theoretical biology applied to aggregation/polymerization. . .


  5. This kind of biophysical thinking reminds me of Kate Raworth’s “Doughnut Economics”, you’ve probably heard of it.

  6. I found the book less impressive than you.

    The Economic Superorganism: Beyond the Competing Narratives on Energy, Growth, and PolicyThe Economic Superorganism: Beyond the Competing Narratives on Energy, Growth, and Policy by Carey W. King
    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    Charles A. S. Hall’s Cover blurb for the Carey w King Tomb is I think a fair reaction to what is a long and complex book. The author himself says that the lengthy quotes ( for context) and juxtaposition of opposing narratives are overly long
    As a choice for the material, I question the wisdom of the choice but congratulate the effort, the net result if one is being generous, works and is fittingly described in the blurb by a giant in the field of Energy-Based economics( Political Economy)Prof. Charles Hall.
    Marx via Schumpeter makes an appearance late in the book, which saves some face on the shortcomings in monetary theory, and the influence on the Author’s thinking of Prof Steve Keen’s own flavour of heterodox Economics shows, also in reflecting Keen’s own limitations. The Authors dislike of Matt Riddley shines through and gives a tell to the Authors own inclinations, an admitted likely failing in his own introduction (“I discuss many matters as objectively as I can, but I don’t claim that either, or anyone can be perfectly objective. “) Well said.
    The Chapters on Debt and Finance are fine as far as they go and the Schumpeter quotes save the whole piece to my own tastes for a better grasp of Shumpeters insights into the money as credit context see Werner, much of the polemic even allowing for putting both sides is hackneyed retreaded phony “enfant terriblism” of the Leather jacket like Yannis’ variety.
    Getting the niceties out of the way the Lacunae is the old apples and Oranges problem encountered at the SEEDS Surplus Energy Blog of Dr. Tim Morgan, Dangerous Exponentials, and The Perfect Storm.
    In Short, the book is an exercise in knocking down mutually opposed straw men arguments, much of the argumentation I take no issue with whatsoever but the Ultimate apologetics for the discredited Climate Scientism and advocacy for Carbon indulgences ( SPASH #WrongKindofGreen Brave New World of Carbon Trading ) coupled with a failure to consider International Finance and PetroDollar hegemony which is an effect that the Authors own “Swing producer” price stability arguments for Texas in 1935, and in which we find ourselves living again in a deflationary age of a Quasi Petro/Carbon Gold Standard.

    View all my reviews

    From Careys 2010 paper on Energy Intensity Rations of Oil.
    2.1. EIR of oil and petroleum
    The EIRp, oil typically lies between 10 and 30, but from 1949 to 2008 it ranges from 7.5 (1981) to 48 (1998) with a value of 8.8 in 2008 marking the year of the highest oil price in history and the beginning of the latest time period of US economic recession. The minimum EIRp, oil of 7.5 in 1981 also coincided with the peak of an economic recession in the US as well as the time of the highest overall cost of petroleum as a percentage of GDP at 8.5% (EIA 2008). EIRe, petro from 1970 to 2006 ranged from 5.3 in 1981 to 15.9 in 1998, the same years for the lowest and highest EIRp, oil. In 1981 EIRp, oil:EIRe, petro was 1.43:1 (minimum) and in 1998 3.05:1 (maximum). The EIRp, oil from 1949 to 1972 gradually increased from 19 to 29 with little volatility in the value. This lack of volatility can possibly be attributed to the Texas Railroad Commission (TRC) acting as an oil cartel by
    pro rationing oil production in Texas from 1935 to 1973 to create a price floor for balancing supply and demand (Prindle 1981)
    . With Texas as the swing state oil producer until US peak production in 1970, this balancing on the price was possible.



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