Academic journal article The Journal of Philosophical Economics

Planning Horizons as an Ordinal Entropic Measure of Organization

Academic journal article The Journal of Philosophical Economics

Planning Horizons as an Ordinal Entropic Measure of Organization

Article excerpt

Introduction

The defining characteristic of institutional and ecological economics is interdependence, everything causally interrelates with no bound to resulting effects. Every act ripples out through social and physical space onto all living creatures, whether we know it or not. Time, Space, and Nature' are 'seamless wholes' without 'joints' for a 'carver' (Georgescu-Boegen 1971, p. 66). The whole System moves in concert: dynamic, chaotic, complexly unfolding in patterns seemingly of its own making, combining components in new ways selectively understood by us. The new biological conception ... the organismic epistemology ... is a belated recognition of the existence of novelty by combination' that 'contributes something that is not deducible from the properties of the individual components' (Georgescu- Boegen 1967, pp. 112 and 62). But complexly interdependent systems - seamless save in our scientific conceptions - show where analysis fails in the presence of qualitative variation and dialectic emergence. As Georgescu- Boegen (1971, p. 67) noted: '.The impossibility of defining formally the intuitive continuum is a logical consequence of the opposition between the essential property of numbers to be distinctly discrete and the characteristic property of the intuitive continuum to consist of dialectically overlapping elements leaving no holes.' How might we encompass such continuity in our research?

Nicholas Georgescu- Boegen (1971, pp. 128-33) offers the Entropy Law as 'the only clear example of an evolutionary law ... a proposition that describes an ordinal attribute Eof a given system ... a "time's arrow" of entropic direction. The Entropy Law states 'that the entropy [or disorder] of the universe increases as Time flows through the observer's consciousness.' Indeed, as GeorgescuBoegen (1967, p. 93; 1971, p. 194) put it, 'our whole economic life feeds on low entropy' at the cost of high entropy elsewhere: life speeds up the entropic degradation of the whole system.' His treatment of entropy is about order and energy, not about organization.

Kenneth Boulding opens 'Some Questions on the Measurement and Evaluation of Organization,' taking an organizational view of this entropic measurement problem. Defining 'organization' as 'ordered structure' of 'roles' in society, Boulding (1962, pp. 131-32) envisions two different processes in the universe, entropy and evolution, where evolution also entails segregation of entropy. He adds that a measure of organization would constitute an index of evolution in both direction and magnitude, were we to craft such a yardstick. An important key to evolution lies in the teaching process, which augments organization and knowledge. Consequently, an index of organization would also serve as a metric for knowledge and learning success. As Boulding (1962, pp. 135-40) explains, economic advance is at essence organizational: it does not yield homogeneous growth but is 'an evolutionary, developmental, and almost embryological process.' He also imputes an ethical aspect to any organizational measure, as such enhances 'goodness.' The unmet challenge is to reduce 'large and complex constellations of organization' down to 'a one-dimensional scalar of ''goodness,'" with a 'price system' of value weights: 'the development of a workable measure of organization would at least be a first step toward the construction of an ethical calculus' leading 'toward the solution of many problems, not only in biology and in the social sciences, but also in ethics.'

So Georgescu-Boegen's entropic concept turns on energy usage and its service to purposive human enjoyment. Boulding's view is more institutional, linked to organizational theories of learning and human activity. Yet both are in need of a unifying conception of entropic change. The interrelation of planning horizons with pricing, growth and efficiency offers a novel look at the entropy problem and our need to assess it through an organizational lens. …

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