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May

What is Wealth?

Written by jayson. 3 comments Posted in: Economics, Ethics, Philosophy

Part 1 of a three part series on this Memorial Day Weekend.

It’s about high time I start tilting over into economics on infinitespiral.net, because economics is a particular ecology that manifests from the Process of the Satisfaction of Desires. It is also something that when perceived incorrectly is the cause of a great amount of suffering and misalignment between values and results.

This tie between the spirituality and ethics that I espouse here and economics is through the concept of wealth. For this reason I feel it’s necessary to define it here in the context of actualization and the satisfaction of desires.

So what is wealth?

Wealth is the measure of the ability to engage the Process of the Satisfaction of Desires. Read that sentence a few times, as there’s a lot in there that uses many of the definitions I’ve defined before. It can be circumscribed around an individual actualizer, or an environment/society and its opportunities (that is, you can measure the wealth of an environment by the degree to which actualizers interacting with it are able to satisfy their desires).

Wealth is only this measurement. Wealth is not money. Wealth is not stuff. Wealth is none of these things unless the money or stuff serves as a tool for engaging the Process. Wealth is created (increased) when desires are being satisfied, or when the opportunities to do so are increased.

“But Jayson,” you say. “That sounds so trivial! Desires are selfish and wealth is evil!” If you still think that, there’s a lot of other reading you need to do on this site, particularly here. The only people who say this are those who do not understand what wealth and love are, and either seek to put down others out of jealousy or a misguided idea of what power is.

That said, let me repeat what I said above – wealth is increased when desires are being satisfied, or when the opportunities to do so are expanded. This means there are ways to increase wealth, and ways to destroy it. Since the Process is something that we are all engaging, by virtue of our very existence – the one thing that we are all doing, and crosses the subjective-objective barrier, it is in our best interest to realize abstractions that create wealth, not destroy it.

And as we will learn, there are many, many ways to destroy it, and only a few ways to create it. War is not one of them.

There are also many abstractions that, while seem to be preserving wealth, in fact create unrealistic, reified ideals that destroy wealth when they are pursued without care. The notion of absolute rights is one of these dangerous ideals.

The only way to create wealth is to encourage the engagement of the Process of the Satisfaction of Desires. We do this by respecting the infinitely subjective values of other actualizers – by treating others as persons whenever practically possible. It is from this that rights, wealth, and prosperity manifest, and it is the only thing worth “fighting” for. But, well, not really fighting. More on that later, stew on this for now.

3 Responses

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  1. Jim Powers

    I need to think on this more, but what jumps out at me as a problem with this definition is the lack of an objective of the desire.

    The concept of satisfying desire breaks down when you consider a concept like a slave. They satisfy desire, but they are not wealthy because the rewards of satisfying desire go to their owner.

    The same is true for any partial slavery, where under the threat of force an external party skims and keeps some of the reward of the satisfaction of desire for themselves.

    The slaver grows wealthy under your definition by stealing the sweat. I think that your definition needs to be expanded somewhat.

    I would say that wealth is the measure of how much reward (reward being subjective to the recipient) one is able to acquire by satisfying desire by their own effort.

    May 29, 2011 at 1:46 pm
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  2. Jim Powers

    To cite a current example, I would choose China. China is an industrious, prosperous nation – with a population blocked from the wealth that they generate and shockingly poor due to the “freeslavery” political system they chose.

    May 29, 2011 at 1:48 pm
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    • jayson

      You’re exactly right, and you’re getting ahead of me ;-)

      Desires as defined here are not being met in China, or in any place where force is used to value things FOR others. The more lengthy definition would be “Wealth is the measure of the ability to engage in the process of satisfaction of desires as expressed by the infinitely subjective values of individual actualizers.”

      When we do not respect this subjectivity, we are systematically incorrect, and the “wealth” created is illusory; we see the process occurring but we do not see what was destroyed. The opportunity costs created by this slavery cancel out any increase in wealth. Coupled with the overhead of dealing with the system of force, it yields net-negative wealth creation.

      The failure of Keynesianism is that it treated this illusory wealth as real wealth. As long as it could see activity in motion, it assumed that wealth was being created. It even assumes so in its basic math (using GDP as a measure of wealth, which is fundamentally flawed). But hey, that’s the Broken Window Fallacy at work.

      May 29, 2011 at 2:34 pm
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