What is wealth?

moneyObviously it’s the stuff in the photo. It’s money, or it could be real estate or gold or oil or diamonds.

Except, what if it’s not? What if wealth is something else entirely?

GDP has increased by thousands of percent over the past few hundred years: not because of more land or gold, but because of inventions. Although many people believe that robots and computers destroy jobs and impoverish us, the opposite is true. Automation and efficiency make us wealthy beyond the dreams of our ancestors.

In the pre-industrial age, everyone was poor. Even the rich were poor. They lived in cold, draughty castles and manor houses, had no TV, computers, books, central heating, education or healthcare, struggled to travel more than about 20 miles in a day and had a life expectancy equal to a war-torn third world autocracy.

Although I’m not an Earl, I can drink as much Earl Grey tea as I like. Tea was once a luxury item, imported from exotic countries at great expense. Now it’s a cheap commodity. Why? Because transport has become safe and efficient, and because the mechanisation of agriculture has enormously improved its productivity. Although I don’t have a butler to make my tea for me, I can make it myself very easily with an electric kettle (which is also a very cheap item to buy.) I don’t need to fetch water from a well, as it flows out of a tap whenever I want it, costs almost nothing, and is not contaminated with cholera or other water-borne diseases. So I can live like an Earl without being rich.

So perhaps wealth isn’t the same thing as money. Perhaps wealth isn’t a physical thing at all, dependent on finite resources. Perhaps to be rich isn’t to be “materialistic” but quite the opposite. Perhaps it’s the stuff of dreams, created by our minds, along with scientific discoveries, inventions, laws, civilisation and culture.

Perhaps giving wealth to others doesn’t make us poorer, and perhaps becoming wealthy doesn’t enslave or impoverish our neighbours. And perhaps there’s no limit to the wealth we can create together, apart from our own blinkered thinking.

Imagine a future paved not with gold, but with wealth and abundance. We’re already half way there.

The wealth is real enough, but in truth we imagined it.

22 responses to “What is wealth?

  1. This is a great way of thinking. I especially like your tea analogy (and Earl Grey tea)!

  2. A tricky and difficult topic, but deftly handled ! Nice.

  3. This is beautiful. I am so happy I discovered your blog.

    Wealth is abundance. And yes, not of the spiritual kind, though some may claim that, but of the material kind: of Earl Grey tea, and conveniences never before dreamed of. Abundance of shelter, of recreation, of 21st century healthcare, of off-season produce. It’s magic.

    But there is an imagined wealth that has done damage, as well. The inflated mortgage values that destroyed our economy to some extent.

    And there is also a over abundance that is unnecessary. I see it where I live. It’s unnecessary. Sometimes all we need is gratitude for adequate sewerage and the pleasures of Earl Gray tea.

    Thank you.

  4. Excellent post! Love your take on being wealthy.

  5. Reblogged this on Financial Fitness and commented:
    Wealth Debate

  6. If the world were a village of 100 people, almost all of the wealth would be held by 1person. It should be impossible to discuss wealth without acknowledging the vast inequality of wealth that exists in our world today.

  7. On one hand, it is comforting to know of all the luxuries that we have today and rich people did not have in the past, and we should be thankful for what we have. But come on, where is human nature in all that? Wealth has always giving people the luxury to have choices. Poor don’t have a choice. You go to supermarket and you have to buy the $0.99 cent brand, versus the $1.99. You fly overseas and try and save $50 on a flight where you will have no elbow room, and no room for your laptop. The guys at the first class has stretched his legs and sleeping cozy. The gap between the rich in the poor today is reflected today in medical services, food you eat and above all the TIME you spend with your family. Yes, TIME was a privilege regardless whether the wealth is now or 500 years ago.

  8. I really appreciate this. I’m at a point in my life where I’m refining my values. A consideration of wealth is a big part of the process.

  9. Fantastic thoughts! I enjoyed this so much that I’m going to share this on my social networks. Thanks for writing this!

  10. Pingback: What is wealth? | ROSA HQ

  11. You are very funny! The metaphoric of Early and Earl Grey Tea will be permanently imprinted in my mind. Now it’s time to make my cup of Earl Grey Tea while enjoying beautiful sunset 🙂 Life is good.

  12. I woke up this morning and felt exceptionally grateful for coffee, toast, my recliner, the computer and the good company of my feline friend, Betsy who is at this moment also comfortable and safe curled up on the sofa. Life is good, very good 😉

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