Side by side but not equal

There was a most interesting juxtaposition of columns in the Bay of Plenty Times on Monday morning.

On the left, but firmly on the right was a piece by Leighton Smith where he talked about a brilliant mathematician, Adrian Bejan, a professor of mechanical engineering at Duke University, North Carolina. In 2018, he was awarded the Benjamin Franklin Medal for thermodynamics and “constructal theory, which predicts natural design and its evolution in engineering, scientific and social systems”. In his field, Bejan is a raging success.

Basically someone who knows what they are talking about.

It is the social systems that interest me. Particularly pertaining to economics. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Bejan said: “Economic and social inequality is the inevitable result of physical laws. Hierarchy is not imposed, it is natural. Equality, however, is artificial because it violates the law of evolution in nature. Physics is not about justice or fairness, but about what happens in nature.

Further: “Artificial constraints that limit the freedom of a system to change might work for a while. But they are ultimately doomed because they are not just fighting against the will of the people but the laws of physics.

He sums up by arguing that the chief impediment “is the absence of a culture that encourages and rewards freedom to question authority, to speak up, inquire, innovate, and implement change”.

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Over the fold, on the right, but definitely on the left, was our dear socialist Bryan Gould saying, Oh, no, it is not natural laws, maths and physics; it is privilege.

But we know that privilege breeds privilege – and that is not just a slogan but an economic fact. Research by Nobel Prize-winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz, shows conclusively that the best chance of being well-off is to be born to rich parents.

Joseph got a prize for that? Can I have a prize for showing that the best chance of being tall is to be born to tall parents?

He also shows that it is up to us to choose, as a society, whether or not to tolerate a high degree of inequality. If we allow our politics to be dominated by defenders of the status quo (or, in other words, by “conservatives”) we will end up with a society in which privilege is endemic and entrenched and feeds on itself.

It will also be a society that functions less well, that is riven by discontent and division, and that fails to use its resources (particularly human resources) fully and efficiently.

The inefficient use of human resources in such a society occurs for two reasons. First, if privilege is the deciding factor, then incompetent people will be promoted to positions for which they are not fitted – and they will then make a bad job of making the important decisions that affect all of us.

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So the entire membership of the CoL is, by definition, there by privilege? Is that your position, Bryan?

On one hand we have the Socialist mantra of equality, equality, equality. On the other hand we have facts and physics and life experience which tells us that there will always be those at the top and those at the bottom. It is the natural order of things. Even chooks have a pecking order!

Artificial attempts to force ‘equality’ and limit the freedom of a system to change might work for a while. But they are ultimately doomed because they are not just fighting against the will of the people but the laws of physics.

But facts were never the strong suit for our socialist comrades, were they?

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