A flippant essay on Wealth
by Norman Hardy

Dictionaries speak of wealth as a collection of useful things.

Wealth need not be accumulated but may be consumed as it is produced. In that regard just about any living thing produces and consumes wealth as it lives. See my note on the roots of trade.

Bees accumulate honey and squirrels stash acorns as forms of accumulated wealth.

I am not aware of barter or trade before people did it. Some animals and plants have evolved reciprocal behavior called symbiosis. I don’t know of quid pro quo behavior between individuals, learned or evolved, before people. Perhaps monkeys recognize individuals who have done them favors.

It seems clear that some people were wealthy before money arose. Perhaps power to influence people is a form of wealth. I suspect politicians lived according to their influence within a community before there was money.

With money as a common denominator it is natural to measure wealth in money units. Many things have a ‘price’ which represents a collective estimate of the amount of wealth that that thing conveys.

Wealth is created by the performance of most jobs, certainly including trading. Marx wanted to divide these two kinds of work. He seemed ambivalent about trading. He sought a notion of wealth according to which trading did not create wealth.

My own opinion is that most jobs produce wealth. I think that the Mafia usually does not but I read a recent note from someone traveling in St. Petersburg who said that the Russian Mafia was seen by some as protection from several levels of corrupt government and preferable thereto. I think that neither the Mafia nor those governments produce wealth. I am not a very good libertarian and I think that some governments actually produce wealth sometimes, although rarely. I believe that governments can produce environments conducive to producing wealth.

I think that American respect for property rights has much to do with our wealth. Our laws that guard property rights are only useful in controlling the fringe who would disregard property rights. I am struck by how easy it is to leave most restaurants without paying. I suppose that to a degree such laws serve to define normative behavior.

Information is wealth. The ancient Greeks left us with vast wealth.

Information is one of the few forms of wealth that can be stored; in fact it is normally not consumed. The value of some information is ephemeral, such as fly by wire signals. You might say that such information is consumed. Perhaps better to say that it is highly perishable.

When we save money for old age we are not saving wealth in the basic sense of useful things. We are, however, presumably investing in things like factories which can make the future society richer and thereby able to sell us goods with the “money” that we saved.

There are a few things besides wealth but I can’t remember what they are.

Similar ideas Reinhardt says “I suspect, it [the money] just went up in smoke.”. I would say that the money never existed and the wealth was a delusion. But that is from the current perspective. His reasonable comments are from the viewpoint that you are as wealthy as you and your business partners think you are.
A sequel, what is ‘value’?