Principle of Least Action vs Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand

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   Violation of the PLA of the capitalistic system in 1929.

 The Principle of Least Action (PLA) expressing

  • Stationarity of the Action (the integral in time of the Lagrangian),

with the Lagrangian the difference between kinetic and potential energies, is cherished by physicists as a deep truth about physics: Tell me the Lagrangian and I will tell you the physics, because a dynamical system will (by reaction to local forces) evolve so as to keep the Action stationary as if led by an invisible hand steering the system towards a final cause of least action.

PLA is similar to the invisible hand of Adam Smith supposedly steering an economy towards a final cause of maximal effectivity or least action (maximal common happiness) by asking each member of the economy to seek to maximize individual profit (individual happiness). This is the essence of the capitalistic system. The idea is that a final cause of maximal effectivity can be reached without telling the members the meaning of the whole thing, just telling each one to seek to maximize his/her own individual profit (happiness).

Today the capitalistic system is shaking and nobody knows how to steer towards a final cause of maximal efficiency. So the PLA of economy seems to be rather empty of content. It may be that similarly the PLA of physics is void of real physics. In particular, the idea of a smallest quantum of action as a basis of quantum mechanics, may well be unphysical.


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