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On inequality
送交者: jingchen 2019年02月09日19:54:01 于 [新 大 陆] 发送悄悄话

On inequality 

The water level inside a dam is higher than that outside the dam. The difference of water levels drives the movement of electricity generators to produce electricity. The air pressure inside an engine is higher than that outside the engine. The difference of air pressure propels the movement of engine. The biggest source of energy on the earth is from the sun. The temperature on the sun is much higher than the temperature on the earth. The difference in temperature drives much of the atmosphere movement, ocean currents, rain falls, and photosynthesis. Without inequality, the world is a dead place.

From Carnot, the efficiency of an engine is determined by the difference of temperature inside and outside engine. The higher the temperature differential, the more efficient an engine becomes. This is a general principle. The efficiency of a dam to generate electricity is determined by the height of the dam. The higher the dam, the more electricity can be generated. The efficiency of transmitting electricity over long distance is determined by the voltage differential. The higher the voltage differential, the less energy loss during transmission. 

At the same time, systems with higher differential require higher cost to build. An engine that can withstand higher temperature and pressure is more expensive to build. So are higher dams and high voltage transmission systems. Systems with higher differentials, when they fail, can cause greater damage. A higher pressure engine causes greater damage when they explode. A higher dam causes greater flood when it collapses. A nuclear power plant, which uses high density nuclear energy as fuel, can cause great environmental damage when accidents occur. 

Because of the need to maintain differential, systems generally have barriers to separate inside from outside. Engines have combustion chambers that separate inside from outside. Dams are constructed to separate inside from outside. Cells have membranes, where concentration of many materials and the electric potentials are different inside and outside. A system maintaining higher differential need to withstand greater pressure. It is more rigidly built. This is true for engines, dams, or transmission lines.

There is a strong parallel in human societies. Human societies everywhere are unequal. In businesses, there are supervisors and subordinates. In academics, military and government, there are different ranks. There are rich countries and poor countries.

Greater inequality often means greater profits. Companies can raise prices when they have great competitive edge. Universities that are more exclusive can charge higher tuitions. Companies often move production facilities to lower wage places to increase profit margins. 

At the same time, systems with higher differentials with respect to the environment are more costly to maintain. At the US Mexico border, US side maintains an expensive border screening system while people can enter Mexico freely. An affluent society requires extensive education system to maintain its social structures.

In popular terms, the inequality in gravitational potential, chemical potential, electric potential and other potentials is called energy. From thermodynamic theory, inequality in potential, or energy is the driving force in the nature. It is also a destructive force. We all need energy provided by oxygen. At the same time, our body produces many antioxidants to prevent oxygen from reacting with and destroying our tissues. Sugar is a vital energy our body needs. But too much sugar in our blood system, and in cells, will damage our health. When we cannot maintain a low level of sugar in our blood system, we get diabetes. 

Human societies depend very much on high energy input. But we carefully regulate the energy sources. “Playing with fire” is always considered dangerous. Whenever possible, systems with high gradient, or high inequality are carefully regulated. They are contained in isolated or remote places. Furnaces are usually located in basements. Electric generators are usually placed very far from residential areas. 

In North America, electric voltage in residential areas is 110 V while in most other parts of the world, the electric voltage is 220 V. To carry the same amount of electric energy in a 110 V system requires much thicker wire than in a 220 V system. But when accidents occur, 110 V causes less shock than 220 V. In a system with abundant natural resources, such as North America, we often choose less resource efficient but safer options. In systems with scarce natural resources, we often choose more resource efficient but riskier options. There is a parallel in social systems. In a social system that controls more resource, its internal inequality is often low. But such system can utilize abundant resources as “energy slaves” (Nikiforuk 2012) or impose inequality on other weaker social systems. In a social system that controls less resource, its internal inequality is often high. In such system, efficiency is very high for the elites, the designers of the system. But such systems also have a higher probability of experiencing violent revolution. When factories are located in wealthy countries, much resource is used to control pollution. This lowers the ratio of output over resource input. But when factories are moved to poor countries, where local population has little political power, little resource is allocated to control pollution. This increases the ratio of output over resource input. Pollution is the reduction of chemical potential. Increasing pollution is the increase of inequality in chemical potential. By increasing inequality, the designers of the system gain higher efficiency and obtain cheaper products as a result.

It requires higher fixed cost to maintain a more unequal society. Dominant parties of a society do not necessarily hope to increase inequality all the time. When the British Empire was expanding rapidly in the 19th century, it abolished slavery, a more extreme form of inequality. By adopting less unequal social systems, Britain was able to maintain and expand a huge empire with relatively little cost and huge profit. The inequality of a system also depends on how long the dominant parties expect the system to last. When we go fishing, we hope to have some inequality over fish. We use a fishing line to hook fish. But if the general public is allowed to use fishing nets in rivers, lakes and oceans, fish population will decline rapidly in a very short period of time. For an unequal system to last, the level of inequality cannot be too extreme. This applies both in nature and in human societies. When the dominant parties expect the system to end soon, the inequality of the social system tends to increase so that dominant parties can extract more profits while the system lasts.

Inequality is everywhere. Almost everything we do is to increase inequality. We try to stand out, or to be outstanding. We want to obtain and maintain competitive edge. We try to generate higher profit from our knowledge premium. We produce patents to create monopoly. Our gods and political systems are superior than others. 

If so, why so few people promote inequality? Why almost everyone claims to fight for equality? This is because most people are at the lower end of the society. Today the richest person has more than a hundred billion asset. Half in the middle is fifty billion. Only few people have more than fifty billion asset. Most people have far less than a billon asset. This is why almost all the public announcements, whose main listeners have very little asset, promote equality. In that way, we gain higher moral grounds than others. And people with higher moral grounds believe they deserve to be treated better than others.

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