Thoughts on Money, Wealth and Value

I might be amongst a rare few who believe that the real worth of a person is based outside of material possessions and economic status. Perhaps our society is right to place value in material wealth and pull away from centuries of teachings valuing integrity, ethics, and community (see valuing what matters). There is strong argument that this skewed approach to valuing material wealth is, in part, why our generation is suffering from a rising “social recession.” What we value, how we value, and where we place the concept of wealth are drastically important parts of our lives and our society.

The chemist turned rogue economist Frederick Soddy was one of the first to lay out the difference of real wealth and, what he termed, “virtual wealth.” Today, “real wealth” is a term being used by the planners of the coming “new economy” to represent physical wealth in the real world. “Phantom wealth” (or Soddy’s “virtual wealth”) is the monetary representation, or store, of real wealth. It is being described as phantom because we have inflated our system to allow money to make more money – money out of thin air is virtual, phantom wealth. But isn’t that money is a store for real, physical value?!

So if we create new money, either by printing it, loaning it into existence, speculative trading, or some other devilish creation of the private banking system, do we also create correlating real wealth? No. This means as we allow money to earn more money, without ever being traded for a real, valuable good or service, we are devaluing those real goods. Banks are essentially stealing real wealth by creating more phantom wealth for themselves. (All the more reason for a Robin Hood Tax)

I just picked up one of Soddy’s books that outlines these concepts: Wealth, Virtual Wealth, and Debt. Soddy set a lot of the ground work for today’s ecological economists and his work was greatly expanded upon by Herman Daly, Richard Douthwaite and Nicolas Georgescu-Roegen. I am excited to read some of Soddy’s work and in researching his (spot-on) views of money, debt, and the banking system I found more great quotes on the subject I wanted to share.

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