Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What is wealth?

Today is Blog Action Day -- an annual nonprofit event that aims to unite the world’s bloggers to post about the same issue on the same day. The aim is to raise awareness and trigger a global discussion.

This year's issue is poverty. I thought it might be helpful to discuss this topic by entering through the back door and examining the assumptions s about what we mean by wealth. The following excerpt is from Operating Manual For Spaceship Earth by Buckminster Fuller. (GW)


Operating Manual For Spaceship Earth
By R. Buckminster Fuller

Anybody who has been in Washington (and approximately everyone else everywhere today) is familiar with governmental budgeting and with the modes of developing public recognition of problems and of bringing about official determination to do something about solutions. In the end, the problems are rarely solved, not because we don’t know how but because it is discovered either that it is said by those in authority that "it costs too much" or that when we identify the fundamental factors of the environmental problems‹and laws are enacted to cope incisively with those factors that there are no funds presently known to be available with which to implement the law. There comes a money bill a year later for implementation and with it the political criteria of assessing wealth by which the previous year’s bill would now seemingly "cost too much." So compromises follow compromises. Frequently, nothing but political promises or under-budgeted solutions result. The original legislation partially stills the demands. The pressures on the politicians are lowered, and the lack of implementation is expeditiously shrugged off because of seemingly more pressing, seemingly higher priority, new demands for the money. The most pressing of those demands is for war, for which the politicians suddenly accredit weaponry acquisitions and military tasks costing many times their previously asserted concepts of what we can afford.

Thus under lethal emergencies vast new magnitudes of wealth come mysteriously into effective operation. We don’t seem to be able to afford to do peacefully the logical things we say we ought to be doing to forestall warring-by producing enough to satisfy all the world needs. Under pressure we always find that we can afford to wage the wars brought about by the vital struggle of "have-nots" to share or take over the bounty of the "haves." Simply because it had seemed, theretofore, to cost too much to provide vital support of those "have-nots." The "haves" are thus forced in self-defense suddenly to articulate and realize productive wealth capabilities worth many times the amounts of monetary units they had known themselves to possess and, far more importantly, many times what it would have cost to give adequate economic support to the particular "have-nots" involved in the warring and, in fact, to all the world’s ’have-nots."

The adequately macro-comprehensive and micro-incisive solutions to any and all vital problems never cost too much. The production of heretofore nonexistent production tools and industrial networks of harnessed energy to do more work does not cost anything but human time which is refunded in time gained minutes after the inanimate machinery goes to work. Nothing is spent. Potential wealth has become real wealth. As it is cliched "in the end" problem solutions always cost the least if paid for adequately at outset of the vital problem’s recognition. Being vital, the problems are evolutionary, inexorable, and ultimately unavoidable by humanity. The constantly put-off or under-met costs and society’s official bumbling of them clearly prove that man does not know at present what wealth is nor how much of whatever it may be is progressively available to him.

We have now flushed out a major variable in our general systems problem of man aboard Spaceship Earth. The question ’What is wealth?" commands our prime consideration.

The Wall Sheet Journal reported the September-October 1967 deliberations of the International Monetary Fund held at Rio De Janeiro, BraziI. Many years and millions of dollars were spent maneuvering for and assembling this monetary convention, and the net result was the weak opinion that it would soon be time to consider doing something about money. The convention felt our international balance of payments and its gold demand system to be inadequate. They decided that the old pirate’s gold was still irreplaceable but that after a few years they might have to introduce some new "gimmick" to augment the gold as an international monetary base.

At present there is about seventy billion dollars of mined gold known to exist on board our Spaceship Earth. A little more than half of it-about forty billion-is classified as being "monetary"; that is, it exists in the forms of various national coinages or in the form of officially banked gold bullion bars. The remaining thirty billion is in private metallic hordes, jewelry, gold teeth, etc.

Since banks have no money of their own and only our deposits on which they earn "interest," bank wealth or money consists only of accrued bank income. Income represents an average return of 5 per cent on capital invested. We may assume therefore from an estimate of the world’s annual gross product that the capital assets, in the form of industrial production, on board our Spaceship Earth are at present worth in excess of a quadrillion dollars. The world’s total of seventy billion dollars in gold represents only three one-thousandths of I per cent of the value of the world’s organized industrial production resources. The gold supply is so negligible as to make it pure voodoo to attempt to valve the world’s economic evolution traffic through the gold-sized needle’s "eye."

Gold was used for trading by the Great Pirates in lieu of any good faith whatsoever‹ and in lieu of any mutual literacy, scientific knowledge, intelligence, or scientific and technical know-how on both sides of the trading. Gold trading assumed universal rascality to exist. Yet the realization of the planners’ earnest conceptioning and feasible work on behalf of the ill-fated 60 per cent of humanity are entirely frustrated by this kind of nonsense.

We therefore proceed ever more earnestly with our general systems analysis of the problems of human survival, with the premise that at present neither the world’s political officials nor its bankers know what wealth is. In organizing our thoughts to discover and clarify what wealth is we also will attempt to establish an effective means to develop immediate working procedures for solution of such big problems.

I have tried out the following intellectual filtering procedure with both multi-thousand general public audiences and with audiences of only a hundred or so advanced scholars and have never experienced disagreement with my progression of residual conclusions. I proceed as follows: I am going to make a series of analytical statements to you, and if anyone disagrees with me on any statement we will discard that statement. Only those of all my statements which remain 100 per cent unprotected will we rate as being acceptable to all of us.

First, I say, "No matter what you think wealth may be and no matter how much you have of it, you cannot alter one iota of yesterday." No protest? We’ve learned some lessons. We can say that wealth is irreversible in evolutionary processes. Is there anyone who disagrees with any of my statements thus far‹about what wealth is or is not? Good-no disagreement-we will go on.

Now, I’m going to have a man in a shipwreck. He’s rated as a very rich man, worth over a billion dollars by all of society’s accredited conceptions of real wealth. He has taken with him on his voyage all his stocks and bonds, all his property deeds, all his checkbooks, and, to play it safe, has brought along a lot of diamonds and gold bullion. The ship burns and sinks, and there are no lifeboats, for they, too, have burned. If our billionaire holds on to his gold, he’s going to sink a little faster than the others. So I would say he hadn’t much left either of now or tomorrow in which to articulate his wealth, and since wealth cannot work backwardly his kind of wealth is vitally powerless. It is really a worthless pile of chips of an arbitrary game which we are playing and does not correspond to the accounting processes of our real universe’s evolutionary transactions. Obviously the catastrophied billionaire’s kind of wealth has no control over either yesterday, now, or tomorrow. He can’t extend his life with that kind of wealth unless he can persuade the one passenger who has a life-jacket to yield that only means of extending one life in exchange for one crazy moment’s sense of possession of all the billionaire’s sovereign-powers-backed legal tender, all of which the catastrophy-disillusioned and only moments earlier "powerfully rich" and now desperately helpless man would thankfully trade for the physical means of extending the years of his life; or of his wife.

It is also worth remembering that the validity of what our reputedly rich man in the shipwreck had in those real estate equities went back only to the validity "in the eyes of God" of the original muscle, cunning, and weapons-established-sovereign-claimed lands and their subsequent legal re-deedings as "legal" properties protected by the moral-or-no, weapons-enforced laws of the sovereign nations and their subsequent abstraction into limited-liability-corporation equities printed on paper stocks and bonds. The procedure we are pursuing is that of true democracy. Semi-democracy accepts the dictatorship of a majority in establishing its arbitrary, ergo, unnatural, laws. True democracy discovers by patient experiment and unanimous acknowledgement what the laws of nature or universe may be for the physical support and metaphysical satisfaction of the human intellect’s function in universe.

I now go on to speculate that I think that what we all really mean by wealth is as follows: "Wealth is our organized capability to cope effectively with the environment in sustaining our healthy regeneration and decreasing both the physical and metaphysical restrictions of the forward days of our lives."

It is obvious that the real wealth of life aboard our planet is a forwardly-operative, metabolic, and intellectual regenerating system. Quite clearly we have vast amounts of income wealth as Sun radiation and Moon gravity to implement our forward success. Wherefore living only on our energy savings by burning up the fossil fuels which took billions of years to impound from the Sun or living on our capital by burning up our Earth’s atoms is lethally ignorant and also utterly irresponsible to our coming generations and their forward days. Our children and their children are our future days. If we do not comprehend and realize our potential ability to support all life forever we are cosmically bankrupt.

Synergetics discloses that wealth, which represents our ability to deal successfully with our forward energetic regeneration and provide increased degrees of freedom of initiation and noninterfering actions, breaks down cybernetically into two main parts: physical energy and metaphysical know-how. Physical energy in turn divides into two interchangeable phases: associative and disassociative‹energy associative as matter and energy disassociative as radiation.


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