These day I often hear friends wonder or even worry about the state of the world. The industry is growing but still people have the feeling that it is harder for them to achieve something with their work while the number and wealth of rich people is staggering. However, all of this is debt, of private people and the public and all this is held by developing countries where people are working under bad conditions to produce goods for the west where people have may too much junk already. And on top of all of this a major fraction of people does not believe that scientists warning of man made climate problems are correct, while we utilize more and more energy, still mostly from fossil sources.
The usual political ideologies do not help to understand this. Tradition does not hold the answer, left alone religion. And the left wing politics that deems itself progressive seems to care more about who uses which toilette and happily discards the achievements of the enlightenment to get to the political opponent.
All this is unpleasant, extremely stupid, and especially very boring.
But luckily there are alternatives. There are interesting books where you can learn something about the world and how it works. Here are two, one old and one rather new and both deal with what is behind everything: energy. (I won’t spoil the read any further)
(1) Reiner Kümmel: The Second Law of Economics: Energy, Entropy, and the Origins of Wealth. Springer, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-1-441-99364-9.
This book investigates what makes economies run. That would be labor, capital (this is not money but rather machines and infrastructure) and energy. Those things are connected to technology and how people use and regulate it, with profound consequences for society.
This description of the work and life of coal miner and their communities in the 1930s is not only a showing under which conditions people lived and worked to build western society, Orwell also observes the mechanisms of a political elite which presents to care for the common man but truly only cares for its own interests.