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I = S - M

The modern way of thinking about economics has been I = M - S Where I is the I as in me, M is what is 'mine' and S is what ...

10/25/14

We have some very wealthy people where we live. There are also many very poor people. Many who are homeless, destitute. The rich own money, own property, own assets. What does that wealth all amount to? Does it make them immortal? Of course not! Are they any wiser or better in any way from the poor? I don't think so.

And yet they are rich. What does that mean? How are they set apart from the poor? How is this couple who own a two million dollar home up the hill from where we live different from the dozen or so homeless people who live down our street? The one difference is of course that the rich have a particularly thick skin. Enjoying their lives even as others suffer.

But on a more fundamental level, the economic level, the rich have wealth and the poor do not. Now what is wealth? Let us say, to keep our analysis simple, that all of it is in the form of money. Let us say our rich couple living up the street has a million dollars. Now why is that significant? Isn't it only significant because the million dollars represent a lack amongst someone else, needs unfulfilled exactly to the tune of a million dollars?

If there were not people in the world who truly needed even a small portion of that million dollars to fulfill their own needs, no one would care that the rich couple had a million dollars. The couple wouldn't be able to do anything with the million dollars if the world was full of people whose needs were being met and who were satisfied with their lives.

The only reason why the million dollars means anything is precisely because there is a negative wealth, a need for exactly a million dollars, that is left unfulfilled in the world. That is what gives money wealth its power. Without the misery, without the lack, money wealth would be worth nothing at all.

So all money wealth implies a negative wealth of the same amount. Wealth is held by a few and negative wealth to the same total amount is held by the very many.

It is absurd to talk about a wealthy society when we think of wealth in terms of money. For each person with wealth in the society there are others carrying negative wealth. A wealthy society is thus an impossibility as long as we think of wealth in terms of what we own: money, property, or assets.

John Ruskin said a long time ago, "Wealth is life," and that is the only definition of wealth that makes any sense to me.

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