This is the second blog post on “What is Wealth?”. In the previous post I provided some definitions and described what I believe constitutes wealth. In this post, I want to present a more coherent picture of what actually constitutes wealth. For that, I am first going to borrow from Woody Tasch’s book, “Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money” and center on the concept of fertility.
We have chosen allegience to markets over allegience to place and household, masking our choice in the politics and economics of export: We export grain, we export cigarettes, we export movies, we export technology, we even export democracy. We have become experts at creating and serving markets, but we are failing to maintain the fertility of social relationships on which culture depends.
Intensive application of a few chemicals is an expedient way to boost yields for a few decades; however it is not a good way to replicate or nurture the complex web of symbiotic relationships that produced soil fertility over millenia. We should not be surprised that megadosees of a few synthetic compounds have deleterious long-term effects. We should not be surprised that what results from such an approach are not only mountains of commodity foodstuffs, but degraded households, degraded communities, and degraded soil. It took millenia or eons, depending on how you count, to create fertility; we are well along the way to materially damaging it in a matter of half a century.
Central to both these quotes is not only the concept of fertility, but of complex symbiotic relationships. On the one hand, we need multiple relationships on our economic and social structures. On the other hand, we need complex symbioses in our soil systems. This touches on a thought I was having a few years ago: that culture and ecology are really two sides of the same coin. A complex interdynamic culture is to the social aspect of wealth what a complex interdynamic ecosystem is to the physical aspect of wealth. We can represent this graphically.
This is at the root of what I believe constitutes wealth. Now that we have a more substantial definition, it will allow us to better asseess whether our current economic systems and activities, or new ideas which we may propose, promote the creation or desturction of wealth.