Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen nsIn existographies, Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen (1906-1994) [CR:117], or Nicholas Georgescu, "Nicholas", or "Nicholas Roegen" (Thims, 2020), was a Romanian-born American mathematician,and statistician noted, in economic thermodynamics, for his 1971 The Entropy Law and the Economic Process, wherein he argues for a material entropy theory of economic resources.

In 1971, Georgescu-Roegen, published his now highly-cited book The Entropy Law and the Economic Process, which situated the view that economic systems are governed by the second law of thermodynamics. The following is a representative excerpt from this work: [1]

“All living beings, in their role as Maxwellian demons, [sort] low entropy for the purpose of enjoying and preserving their lives.”

Although most the book is mostly incorrect, thermodynamically speaking, the simplified verbal entropology theme of the book, along with the underlying attempt at extrapolation of the second law to explain man's overuse of natural resources, i.e. material entropy tends to a maximum, have made Georgescu sort of a cult legend in many circles. Georgescu's general theory rejects the older “mechanistic” economics in favor of “thermodynamic” economics, and insists that descriptions of economic phenomena, especially mathematical descriptions, must go beyond relative market prices, namely they must be grounded in reality, i.e. in the physical and social universe of which humans are embedded, which he attributes to what he calls the "entropy law". [2]

Name | Roegen anagram
He was born Nicolae Georgescu and also formerly known as Nicholas St. Georgescu. The name Nicholas seems to be an English (or Americanized) version of Nicholae. In post-humorous publications and discussion of him, by his associates, e.g. Kozo Mayumi and John Gowdy, he is simply referred to as 'Georgescu'.

The appended surname 'Roegen', according to several sources, is an attached reverse anagram.

According to one explanation, when Nicolae was very young, he attended military school to help support his widowed mother and his younger brother. He was clearly a superior mathematician, but there was another Georgescu (very common Romanian name) so he added "Roegen" to his Georgescu to make himself "unique". He was in academic competitions and won many scholarships for academics. He kept his new name after leaving Romania after the WWII and is know by that whole name. The surname "Roegen", according to this source, is a play on the name "George" (of his original last name George-scu). [8]

According to a second reference, surname attachment name came from an anagram of his Romanian name NicolaE GEORescum, such that if the capital letters are read backward it becomes ROEGEN. [10]

Of similar commonality, to note, the surname American electrochemical engineer Libb Thims, also a human thermodynamicist, similar to Georgescu-Roegen, is a reverse anagram of "Smith" (see: etymology), the most common last name in America.

Georgescu completed his BS in mathematics at the University of Bucharest in 1926 and completed his PhD at the University of Paris in 1930 with a thesis on “The Problem of Finding the Components of a Cyclical Phenomenon”. His work on periodic phenomena convinced him that social phenomena could in no way be described by the "mechanics" of classical statistics, which in his view described locomotion as reversible and qualityless. Although he had taken only two courses in economics at the Sorbonne, he concluded that economic phenomena could be described by a mathematical system. In 1932, after completing two-years of post graduate work at the University College London, he became a professor of statistics at the University of Bucharest, remaining there until 1946. From 1950 to 1976, Georgescu was a professor at Vanderbilt University, Tennessee.

His interest in the relation between entropy and economics seems to have began with his 1966 introductory essay to a collection of his theoretical papers published in Analytical Economics. [2] He spent the last 25-years of his life researching this topic.

Students / influence
A student of Georgescu-Roegen is Japanese applied economist Kozo Mayumi, author of the 2001 book The Origins of Ecological Economics: The Bioeconomics of Georgescu-Roegen, who studied bioeconomics under Georgescu-Roegen from 1984 to 1988 at the economics department of Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee. [7] Georgescu-Roegen's work has stimulated a number of writers, such as Herman Daly, Robert Ayres, Jeremy Rifkin, Jing Chen, among others.
The Entropy Law and the Economic Process
Georgescu's 1971 book The Entropy Law and the Economic Process, one of the most highly-cited human thermodynamics books (in spite of the fact that most its thermodynamic content is incorrect).

Economic entropy theory
The core of Georgescu-Roegen's theory is found in his 1971 book The Entropy Law and the Economic Process. In it, based on verbal versions of the second law of thermodynamics, his basic line of reasoning argues that due to the universal nature of the second law of thermodynamics, which, in the 1882 verbalized descriptions of German physicist Hermann von Helmholtz, states that usable "free energy" (system energy available to do external work) tends to disperse or become lost in the form of "bound energy" (system internal energy unavailable to do external work), in economic systems natural resources will always tend to deplete. To clarify, in 1976, at the age of 70, Georgescu-Roegen looked back to his earlier experiences in Romania to find the roots of his dissatisfaction with traditional economics and his preoccupation with entropy and irreversible evolutionary change: [3]

“The idea that the economic process is not a mechanical analogue, but an entropic, unidirectional transformation began to turn over in my mind long ago, as I witnessed the oil wells of the Ploesti field of both World Wars’ fame becoming dry one by one and as I grew aware of the Romanian peasant’s struggle against the deterioration of their farming soil by continuous use and by rains as well. However, it was the new representation of a process that enabled me to crystallize my thoughts in describing for the first time the economic process as the entropic transformation of valuable natural resources (low entropy) into valueless waste (high entropy).”

In caution to the reader, in the simplicity of this theory, however, he states that: [3]

“I may hasten to add … that this is only the material side of the process. The true product of the economic process is an immaterial flux, the enjoyment of life, whose relation with the entropic transformation of matter-energy is still wrapped in mystery.”

In other words, in a modern sense, to understand the economic process as an external measure of more meaningful system internal states described via measures of 'life enjoyment", one must be able to quantify both the energy and the entropy of the various states in which a system is possible. In this view, resources such as oil and coal function as factors in the height of the activation energy to human chemical reactions occurring on substrate.

Difficulties on theory
The essential difficulty in Georgescu-Roegen’s economic entropy theory is that he uses simple verbal descriptions of the second law of thermodynamics, stemming from the 1882 verbal phrases of Helmholtz, and makes unjustified assumptions of where these verbal terms apply in human social systems. Specifically, he reasons that “free energy” refers to coal or crop soil and that “bound energy” refers to the conversion of that coal energy or food energy into the end products of human consumption, such as the energy spent in using electric appliances or as food or consumer end products as found in a used condition at garbage dumps. The difficulty here is that Georgescu-Roegen makes no connection to the Carnot cycle or Clausius’ 1862 transformation integral:

\ \int \frac{dQ}{T} \ge 0

which is used to quantify irreversibility in the Carnot cycle. Said another way, Georgescu-Roegen never defines either his “working body” (e.g. steam body) or his “boundary” (across which heat, work, or matter may pass) to his economic process. The reader is supposedly assumed to think that the bottom boundary to the human economic system lies several miles underground, below the coal and oil deposits, and to ignore the first law of thermodynamics energy balance to the remainder of the picture.

In modern terms, boundaries to "working bodies" of human systems, i.e. interactive collections of human molecules confined to economic systems, are defined as being the the 90 percent probability regions in which a specific number of socially interactive or energetically-coupled humans are found. In this point of view, the "boundary" does not typically go several miles below ground but rather the surface of the earth, including the soils and natural resource deposits are considered as substrate or catalyst upon which human molecules react. The entropy considered by Georgescu-Roegen is defined as the internal system energy dissipated as humans act on each other, energy that does not find conversion into system external work. [4]

The use of material entropy, as seeded by Georgescu-Roegen, is generally seen as point of non-logic. Israeli physical chemist Brian Silver, in commentary on what he calls “Georgescu-Roegen’s brainchild”, for instance, states that “the term material entropy is meaningless; it has not the slightest connection with entropy. [5]

In a recent 14-page article “The Three Laws of Thermodynamics”, in Redorbit News, a staff writer takes issue with Georgescu-Roegen's interpretation of the second law of thermodynamics (entropy law) and its relevance to the economics of production. The paper concurs with experts on thermodynamics that Georgescu-Roegen has committed a major error. Namely, Georgescu-Roegen's notion of "material entropy," which he christened as the "fourth law of thermodynamics," is unfounded. They conclude that Georgescu-Roegen's purported law, as the application of the second law to the realm of matter, is a grave conceptual blunder. [6]

The central error in Georgescu's derivation stems from the fact that the "
degradation of environmental resources" is what acts as the hot body of the economic heat engine, in the thermodynamic system model, and not on the transformation content of the workers of the factory; or, conversely, if one is focusing specifically on applying the second law to the reactions between humans in a production process system, e.g. a factory or a town, environmental resources, e.g. the use of coal in the steam engine (and its later derivatives) to power the industrial revolution, is energy that goes into or acts to lower the activation energy of the various human chemical reactions of the system or society of study, e.g. accelerated reproduction or societal expansion, etc., as is evidenced by the population explosion that coincides with the start of the industrial revolution.

The error stems from the fact that the dispersion of material resources from waste disposal is not a direct analogy extrapolation of the second law view of energy dispersal; but rather the second law deals with the 'vanishing of disequilibrium,' in reactions between the human molecules of the system.

Low entropy / high entropy
Georgescu-Roegen made huge, rather blunderous, extrapolations of what he considered the terms “low entropy” and “high entropy” to mean. To cite one example: [1]

Low entropy is a necessary condition for a thing to have value. The relation between economic value and low entropy is of the same type as that between price and economic value.”

This statement needs a huge redo, from a human chemical thermodynamics perspective, to actually make any sense.

Quotes | On
The following are quotes on Rogen:

“There is in me a pixy-ish (or quixotic) propensity to make it even more difficult than necessary for you to believe the ideas herein. In that spirit: Paul Samuelson, the first American Nobel Prize winner in economics, called Georgescu-Roegen ‘a scholar's scholar, an economist's economist’ in an admiring foreword to a 1966 book of Roegen's that Samuelson says is ‘a book to own and savor’. In my view, this just shows how great talents can swear to nonsense when the nonsense is framed in the ‘difficult art’ (Samuelson's phrase) of mathematical economics.”
Julian Simon (1981), The Ultimate Resource 2 (pg. 79) [14]

Georgescu-Roegen, in his Entropy Law and the Economic Process (pg. 283), points out that ‘there have been sporadic suggestions that all economic value can be reduced to a common denominator of low entropy’ and mentions Helm (1887) and Winiarski (1900).”
Richard Adams (1988), The Eight Day (pg. 94)

Quotes | By
The following are noted quotes by Georgescu-Roegen:

“Manifold avenues open up up almost as soon as one begins to tackle the problem.”
— Nicholas Roegen (1971), The Entropy Law and the Economic Process (pg. 3)

“It is physics that supplies the only clear example of evolutionary law: the second law of thermodynamics.”
— Nicholas Roegen (1971), The Entropy Law and the Economic Process [11]

“Almost anyone nowadays is likely to expatiate to his heart’s content on the connection between thermodynamics and ecology. But, as we have just seen in more than one case, just to air the textbook teachings does not suffice to explain what happens in the world engine, let alone to probe the various ecological prescriptions coming from all directions.”
— Nicholas Roegen (1977), “The Steady State and the Ecological Salvation: a Thermodynamic Analysis” [15]

“As to the scarcity of matter in a closed system, such as the earth, the issue may, in my opinion, prove in the end more critical than that of energy.”
— Nicholas Roegen (1979), “Comments on the Papers by Daly and Stiglitz” (pgs. 98-99); cited by Julian Simon (1981) in The Ultimate Resource 2 (pg. 79) [13]

“Can the ‘market mechanism’ be an instrument for the intergenerational distribution of natural resources?”
— Nicholas Roegen (1979), “Comments on the Papers by Daly and Stiglitz” (pg. 99) [12]

See also
Romanian school of physical socioeconomics

1. Georgescu-Roegen, Nicholas. (1971). The Entropy Law and the Economic Process (Maxwellian demon quote, pg. 307; pg. 282). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
2. Gowdy, J. and Mesner, S. (1998). “The evolution of Georgescu-Roegen's bioeconomics.” Review of Social Economy Vol. LVI, No. 2.
3. Georgescu-Roegen, Nicholas. (1976). “Foreword,” Energy and Economic Myths, (pgs. ix-xxvi), New York: Pergamon Press.
4. (a) Thims, Libb. (2007). Human Chemistry (Volume One), (preview). Morrisville, NC: LuLu.
(b) Thims, Libb. (2007). Human Chemistry (Volume Two), (preview). Morrisville, NC: LuLu.
5. Silver, Brian L. (1998). The Ascent of Science, (pg. 231). Oxford University Press.
6. Staff Writer. (2004). “The Three Laws of Thermodynamics and the Theory of Production”, RedOrbit News, March 13.
7. Mayumi, Kozo. (2001). The Origins of Ecological Economics: The Bioeconomics of Georgescu-Roegen. London: Routledge.
8. Thread post (from person in Albany, New York) (23 Jul 2011) – Hmolpedia.
9. Georgescu-Roegen, Nicholas, Mayumi, Kozo, and Gowdy, John, M. (1999). Bioeconomics and Sustainability (section: Ahead of his Time, pgs. 78-79). Edward Elgar Publishing.
10. Thread post (from person in Bucharest, Romania) (8 Oct 2011) – Hmolpedia.
11. (a) Georgescu-Roegen, Nicholas. (1971). The Entropy Law and the Economic Process (pgs. 128-29). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
(b) Hsieh, Ching-Yao, and Ye, Meng-Hua. (1991). Economics, Philosophy, and Physics (pg. xxvi). M.E. Sharpe.
12. Roegen, Nicholas. (1979). “Comments on the Papers by Daly and Stiglitz”, in: Scarcity and Growth Revisited (editor: Kerry Smith) (pgs. 95-105). Johns Hopkins.
13. (a) Roegen, Nicholas. (1979). “Comments on the Papers by Daly and Stiglitz”, in: Scarcity and Growth Revisited (editor: Kerry Smith) (pgs. 95-105). Johns Hopkins.
(b) Simon, Julian L. (1981). The Ultimate Resource 2 (§4: Grand Theory (txt), pgs. 77-83; quote, pg. 79) (txt) . Princeton University Press, 1996.
14. Simon, Julian L. (1981). The Ultimate Resource 2 (§4: Grand Theory (txt), pgs. 77-83; quote, pg. 79) (txt) . Princeton University Press, 1996.
15. Roegen, Nicholas. (1977), “The Steady State and the Ecological Salvation: a Thermodynamic Analysis” (pg. 269), American Institute of Biological Sciences, 27(4):266-70.

Further reading
● Georgescu-Roegen, Nicholas. (1977). “The Measure of Information: a Critique”, in: Modern Trends in Cybernetics and Systems, Volume 3 (editors: J. Ross and C. Bilciu) (pgs. 187-217). Springer.
● Georgescu-Roegen, Nicholas. (1979). “Myth about Energy and Matter” (abs), Growth and Change, 10(1):16-23.
● Beard, Thomas R. and Lozada, Gabriel A. (1999). Economics, Entropy, and the Environment: (ch. 5: An Economists Primer on Thermodynamics, pgs. 83-98; ch. 6: Thermodynamics and Georgescu-Roegen’s Economics, pgs. 99-119). Edward Elgar Publishing.
● Georgescu-Roegen, Nicholas. (1993). “Thermodynamics and We, the Humans”. In Entropy and Bioeconomics: Proceedings, first International Conference of the E.A.B.S., Rome 28-30 November 1991 (pgs. 184-201). J. Dragan, E. Seifert and M. Demetrescu. Milan: European Association for Bioeconomic Studies.
● Georgescu, Nicholas. (1993). “The Entropy Law and the Economic Problem”, in: Valuing the Earth: Economics, Ecology, Ethics (ch. 3, pgs. 75-88). Ed. Herman Daly, Kenneth Townsend. MIT Press.

External links
Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen – Wikipedia.
Georgescu-Roegen, Nicholas – WorldCat Identities.

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