3 8 D O C U M E N T 4 4 F E B R U A R Y 1 9 2 1
In this sense my paper about coal was also a treatise with a purpose, and I
thought I had also given this adequate expression, with reference to some abstrac-
tions that I had to make. I take the liberty, besides, of enclosing with this letter an
offprint of the mentioned paper, for the sake of facilitating comprehension of my
Your criticism of my arguments seems to me to be mainly based on the fact that
you interpret the problem of coal planetarily, to share Moszkowski’s expression,
whereas I advanced my arguments consistent with the intention of having an effect
on economic policy, specifically on the problem of the effect of coal on Germany’s
organism. This also explains why you concur with my assumptions, which are
planetary, but not with the conclusions, which relate specifically to Germany.
The first premise is that solar energy, irrespective of its form, is the only source
of energy at our disposal and that consequently human labor can always be only an
exploitation of the solar energy, hampered by a degree of efficiency. The second
premise, which applies only to Germany, is that the great overpopulation, low inso-
lation and depleted soil, and the high life expectancy of its inhabitants, makes solar
energy in the form of coal outweigh all the other forms of solar energy so much that
it is not committing too great an error to regard coal as the sole source of energy
for Germany at the present time.
This latter premise might possibly be false. I made an effort to prove it in the
enclosed paper. In any event, it is more or less right. If, for simplicity’s sake, one
assumes it to be right, then, in my opinion, the consequence necessarily arises that
human labor depends on coal, and not
If I raise my arm, this is merely
possible in that somewhere and sometime previously a quantity of coal was burned
that developed more energy than is bound in my now raising my arm. I reiterate
again that this assertion is only correct at the moment. In the history of progress
there must, of course, be human energy originating from insolation before coal
could be extracted and exploited, only that at the moment one may neglect this
insolation, because the inhabitants of Germany have grown into the so very much
larger energy range of coal, and it now, just like a gas, fills the available space.
If you also grant my second premise, applicable only to Germany, then tempo-
rally, although not currently, human energy certainly is assignable as the primary
one; at the moment, however, the quantity of expendable work in Germany is dic-
tated by coal. Accordingly, your view appears to me untenable that if it is possible
to extract a higher utility effect from 1 kg of coal, then only as many human labor-
ers can be saved as are made redundant in the extraction
This would
rather be true only if the utility effect only of coal production were improved. An
improvement in the utility effect of coal carries over, however, into all the work pro-
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