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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/9113/access-to-energy/

Access to Energy

December 16, 2008 by

I just discovered that the old issues of Access to Energy, the wonderful pro-nuclear, pro-science, pro-technology, pro-free enterprise newsletter formerly published by the late, great Dr. Petr Beckmann are online. Beckmann was a brilliant electrical engineering professor and libertarian who died of cancer in 1993 (see his poignant, “Goodbye, Dear Readers“).

Update: Thorium: The Ultimate Alternative Energy.After his death, AtE was taken over by Dr. Art Robinson, who also, I believe, is a proponent of home-schooling. Beckmann wrote the intriguing book Einstein Plus Two (Amazon), and founded, with physicist Howard Hayden, the dissident physics journal Galilean Electrodynamics (brochures and further Beckmann info here; further dissident physics links). Hayden later began to publish his own pro-energy newsletter, The Energy Advocate.

One of Beckmann’s most important works–and one sorely in need of revision and republication today, in view of the continued strangling of nuclear power and the irrational push for “soft” energy–is his The Health Hazards of NOT Going Nuclear (Amazon; PDF). See also his pamphlets The Non-Problem of Nuclear Waste and Why “Soft” Technology Will Not Be America’s Energy Salvation.


Michael Hartl December 16, 2008 at 7:58 pm

Given that the Austrian school is sometimes unfairly dismissed as “crank economics”, I’d suggest distancing yourself from actual crank science. These sorts of publications have a long and (ig)noble history, especially when it comes to attacking Einstein’s relativity. Though Galilean Electrodynamics and its ilk would make for some interesting problems in a freshman relativity course (i.e., “find the error in…”), their use doesn’t extend much beyond that. (This happens to be one of my areas of expertise; I taught freshman physics, including relativity, at Caltech for five years. I’d be thrilled to find an actual error in relativity, by the way; there’s a committee in Sweden that would likely contact me shortly thereafter.)

Dan Mahoney December 16, 2008 at 8:21 pm

Michael Hartl:

A bit off topic, but I’m curious as to your thoughts on Hoppe’s criticisms of general relativity and quantum mechanics (admittedly from a philosophical/foundational basis, as opposed to a mathematical/technical basis).

Inquisitor December 17, 2008 at 1:28 am

Could you quote Hoppe’s attack on it? Neither Mises nor Hoppe dismiss it so far as I can recall, though in Mises’s case he did dismiss certain interpretations of it (I wonder what his brother thought on the matter.)

TokyoTom December 17, 2008 at 3:04 am

This is interesting, Stephan; thanks.

I agree with Beckmann that coal poses health threats (in mining, transporting, burning and sludge disposal) magnitudes greater than does nuclear. While enviro opposition to nuclear has had regrettable consequences, such opposition is understandable given the close intertwining of the nuclear power business with the state – which continues to provide caps on liability, and damages the industry by preventing preporcessing and interfering in waste disposal.

As for Dr. Robinson, he is worthy of note chiefly in his role in providing the vehicle for a deliberately deceptive petition project regarding climate change:

Dan Mahoney December 17, 2008 at 7:07 am


Unfortunately my books are all in boxes (I’m in the middle of a move), but Hoppe’s critique is essentially, if one necessarily presupposes the validity of concepts like causality or Euclidean geometry, then it cannot be said that fields of modern physics (which also presuppose these concepts) have falsified them (as one often hears said of quantum mechanics and general relativity).

Stephan, can you dig up any quotes?

Stephan Kinsella December 17, 2008 at 12:25 pm

As I discuss in More Palmer Hoppe Distortions, on The Palmer Periscope:


As for geometry and optics, it seems Palmer did not hear Hoppe clearly.  I do not believe he stated "that Ludwig von Mises had laid the foundation not
only for economics, but for ethics, geometry, and optics". Rather, as shown in On Praxeology and the Praxeological Foundation of Epistemology (text at notes 60-62, and note 62; from Economic Science and the Austrian Method)), which references Lorenzen, Dingler, Karnbartel, et al., regarding an entire body of "protophysics" –

Further, the old rationalist claims that geometry, that is, Euclidean
geometry is a priori and yet incorporates empirical knowledge about
space becomes supported, too, in view of our insight into the
praxeological constraints on knowledge. Since the discovery of
non-Euclidean geometries and in particular since Einstein’s
relativistic theory of gravitation, the prevailing position regarding
geometry is once again empiricist and formalist. It conceives of
geometry as either being part of empirical, aposteriori physics, or as
being empirically meaningless formalisms. Yet that geometry is either
mere play, or forever subject to empirical testing seems to be
irreconcilable with the fact that Euclidean geometry is the foundation
of engineering and construction, and that nobody there ever thinks of
such propositions as only hypothetically true. [61]
Recognizing knowledge as praxeologically constrained explains why the
empiricist-formalist view is incorrect and why the empirical success of
Euclidean geometry is no mere accident. Spatial knowledge is also
included in the meaning of action. Action is the employment of a
physical body in space. Without acting there could be no knowledge of
spatial relations, and no measurement. Measuring is relating something
to a standard. Without standards, there is no measurement; and there is
no measurement, then, which could ever falsify the standard. Evidently,
the ultimate standard must be provided by the norms underlying the
construction of bodily movements in space and the construction of
measurement instruments by means of one’s body and in accordance with
the principles of spatial constructions embodied in it. Euclidean
geometry, as again Paul Lorenzen in particular has explained, is no
more and no less than the reconstruction of the ideal norms underlying
our construction of such homogeneous basic forms as points, lines,
planes and distances, which are in a more or less perfect but always
perfectible way incorporated or realized in even our most primitive
instruments of spatial measurements such as a measuring rod. Naturally,
these norms and normative implications cannot be falsified by the
result of any empirical measurement. On the contrary, their cognitive
validity is substantiated by the fact that it is they which make
physical measurements in space possible. Any actual measurement must
already presuppose the validity of the norms leading to the
construction of one’s measurement standards. It is in this sense that
geometry is an a priori science; and that it must simultaneously be
regarded as an empirically meaningful discipline, because it is not
only the very precondition for any empirical spatial description, it is
also the precondition for any active orientation in space. [62]

62. On the aprioristic character of Euclidean geometry see Lorenzen, Methodisches Denhen, chapters 8 and 9; idem, Normative Logic and Ethics, chapter 5; H. Dingler, Die Grundlagen der Geometrie (Stuttgart: Enke, 1933); on Euclidean geometry as a necessary presupposition of objective, i.e., intersubjectively communicable, measurements and in particular of any empirical verification of non-Euclidean geometries (after all, the lenses of the telescopes which one uses to confirm Einstein’s theory regarding the non-Euclidean structure of physical space must themselves be constructed according to Euclidean principles) see Karnbartel, Erfahrung und Struktur, pp. 132-33; P. Janich, Die Protophysik der Zeit (Mannheim: Bibliographisches Institut, 1969), pp. 45-50; idem, "Eindeutigkeit, Konsistenz und methodische Ordnung," in F. Karnbartel and J. Mittelstrass, eds., Zum normativen Fundament der Wissenschaft.

Following the lead of Hugo Dingler, Paul Lorenzen and other members of the so-called Erlangen school have worked out a system of protophysics , which contains all aprioristic presuppositions of empiriical physics, including, apart from geometry, also chronometry and hytometry (i.e., classical mechanics without gravitation, or "rational" mechanics). "Geometry, chronometry and hytometry are a-priori theories which make empirical measurements of space, time and materia ‘possible’.They have to be established before physics in the modern sense of fields of forces, can begin. Therefore, I should like to call these disciplines by a common name: protophysics." Lorenzen, Normative Logic and Ethics, p. 60.

So Palmer is wrong. Hoppe did not claim Mises "laid the foundation not only for economics, but for ethics, geometry, and optics"; and does Palmer want to relegate to the dustheep in a wave of the hand thinkers like Lorenzen et al.?! This is a standard branch of apriori reasoning. Palmer may not agree with it, but so what?

Dan Mahoney December 17, 2008 at 12:51 pm

One of the chapters in A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism has an outstanding discussion of causality as a necessary presupposition for carrying out experiments (in the sense of being able to characterize the outcomes as “testing” a physical theory), not something that is itself only empirically true.

Dan Mahoney December 17, 2008 at 12:55 pm

Tom Palmer is clearly suffering from dementia, and not the kind brought on by old age.

Michael Hartl December 18, 2008 at 9:33 pm

Regarding Hoppe’s position on geometry: the world is Euclidean to high accuracy, but there are measurable deviations from Euclidean geometry at high speeds and in high gravitational fields. Our intuition is Euclidean because humans evolved deep in the Newtonian/Euclidean realm of physics, but our untrained intuition is wrong outside of that realm.

The claim that engineering and even measurement itself presuppose Euclidean geometry is false. The meter is defined in terms of light travel time (a meter is the distance light travels in vacuum in 1/299792458 s), with no reference to rigid bodies or any other Euclidean constructs. And an engineered system many of us use every day depends crucially on non-Euclidean effects: without the time dilation corrections from special and general relativity, the Global Positioning System would be useless within a day. (For more information on these and related issues, I recommend Spacetime Physics by Taylor & Wheeler.)

There is no fundamental barrier to economists doing physics, but without training they will be as bad at physics as the typical physicist is at economics—and, having seen many physicists try to do economics, I can testify that that is very bad indeed.

Dan Mahoney December 19, 2008 at 7:20 am

Michael Hartl:

You mentioned you taught at Caltech? I went there as an undergrad (MIT for grad school), so I assure you I understand the underlying technical mathematics of modern physics. These are irrelevant to Hoppe’s point, which I’m afraid you didn’t grasp (perhaps you are relying on my rather sketchy synopsis, rather than Hoppe’s original writings?).

Michael Hartl December 21, 2008 at 11:43 pm

@Dan: yes, I was relying on your summary. I am otherwise unfamiliar with Hoppe’s views on physics.

Kevin Delgadillo April 29, 2009 at 11:46 am

Interesting discussion — Dan Mahoney — been looking for you for years (Caltech undergrad roomie) — send me an email – kevin@kevcat.com

Small Bathtubs November 27, 2011 at 4:17 pm

That was a frankly amazing read!

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