There are three kinds of property that determine society's prosperity. These are Land, Capital and labor.
- “The entire material universe exclusive of people and their products.”
- “Wealth used in the process of production, which includes wealth in the course of exchange.”
- “All human exertion in the production of wealth and services.”
These are the kinds of property that produce wealth.
Wealth and Treasure
However, for individuals, especially Westerners, what seems to be important is portable wealth. The more portable the better. The acquisitiveness of western people's is world in-famous. Tales of indigenous people pouring molten gold down the throats of captured conquistadors illustrate how others sometimes reacted to European adventurers seeking gold.
Treasure and Loot
Treasure acquired by theft, usurpation, conversion or warfare is also known as loot. Piracy and warfare, in search of exchange goods, led to colonialization, creation of factories for growing trade goods, and later to factories for automated production. All this was designed to create loot for the pirate captains. The west coined a word for legalized piracy, it was called privateering. It is said that if you scratch the history of almost any family, you find pirates and crooks as the founders. If English speaking people look down on Mafia, it's not because we never had our own. It was known as the English Aristocracy, and later, the brotherhood of the coast. The first Navies for both the Brits and the USA were pirate fleets. Spanish & Portuguese power was driven by privateering. It was called colonialism, but it was really an outgrowth of piracy. The Spanish had no claim to America, they came in to loot it. The Dutch and other European Powers all sailed the world in search of riches. When they engaged in labor or capital expenditure, it was after loot, not the greater good.
Security Versus Loot
People derive their sustenance and prosperity from a combination of ownership/rule and labor. Lincoln noted that capital comes from mixing labor with items taken from nature's bounty. "Labor is prior to Capital." Wealth is produced by such labor. Wealth is fixed to land; houses, buildings, improvements to property in general and put back into producing things. Wealth devoted to production is capital. When people own their own tools and property the result is widely spread modest prosperity. A society with a large middle class is secure and prosperous. There is room for wealthy people in a healthy society.
Wealth versus Greed
Wealth that is portable and exchangeable is known as "treasure". It may be used as capital, exchanged for consumable goods, or used to buy land properties. Henry George conceded that those who create wealth through capital have a right to enjoy the fruits of their labor. He considered the fruits of exertion or capital to be "earned income." Economic rent is unearned income. When people monopolize property and then charge rent to use it, that too is mostly unearned. Wealth acquired by fraud, usurpation or theft is also unearned. Indeed it is unmerited.
Yet vast wealth comes from lending, either directly or through investment. Accounting wealth involves the creation of theoretical instruments that produce fixed amounts of returns, "interest". Sometimes that wealth has nothing to do with reality except as a demand on others. When individuals do it, it's called usury, when States do it, it's called war, embargoes, or invasion. In any case, it's bad news, and has been known as such for centuries:
Aristotle is attributed to explaining it:
“The most hated sort, and with the greatest reason, is usury, which makes a gain out of money itself, and not from the natural object of it. For money was intended to be used in exchange, but not to increase at interest. And this term interest, which means the birth of money from money, is applied to the breeding of money because the offspring resembles the parent. Wherefore of any modes of getting wealth this is the most unnatural.” [Quantum of Power]
Pioneers in Economics laid out the benefits of a well governed economic system years ago. But people prefer to fight, play king of the hill, and lord it over others. A well governed system under Democratic, Republican and Commonwealth principles is boring compared to one where people are always fighting. So there are always folks who prefer to be pirates and have it all, manipulate crews to fight for them, then bury the loot because they don't know what to do with it otherwise. Private people acting as government are privateers. Privateers are like the Tongue Eating Louse that eats the tongue of a fish and then takes a bite out of everything the fish tries to eat. Privateers create corporations that tried to rule the world: Rhodes in Rhodesia, the East India Company, J. P. Morgan. They become oligarchs because they are rarely competent to rule a country. They want loot, they don't really want the common-wealth of a country, the common business of a republic or a federation, or the annoyances of democracy.
Now the privateers of the United States are trying to implement oligarchy by dominating the GOP and raising one of their number to the Presidency.
I've got a lot more to say, but that's enough for this post.