I tend to get two kinds of reactions when I tell people the name of my blog. They either go “ha, fantastic” or they say nothing and sort of shuffle awkwardly. They usually recover when I explain it, but I realise that the title of my blog is a little inflammatory. So this is a little Q+A about what I mean and don’t mean by ‘make wealth history’.
Why did you call it Make Wealth History?
I began writing about these issues around the time of the Make Poverty History campaign, so it made a nice parallel. It comes down to a simple observation about developed and undeveloped countries. It’s this: we hope that poor countries will eventually ‘develop’ and become more like us – but this is impossible. There isn’t enough oil, land, water, forests or atmosphere for 7 billion people to all consume like Europeans or Americans.
So we have a problem. Either we need to stop the poor from developing so that we can carry on consuming, or we need to consume less to create space for a new kind of development. I argue for the second option, that if we want to make poverty history, we have to make wealth history at the same time.
Do you really want to make wealth history?
If we’re talking about a simplistic view of wealth as an abstract ‘more’, then yes. And that’s the standard view of most governments, which take Gross Domestic Product as their measure of success. If we’re talking about the unbalanced and perverse wealth that allows a billion people to overeat while a billion other people go hungry, then yes, let’s consign that to history too. But if you think I want to end private property, or confiscate and redistribute your goodies, then no.
True wealth is broader than financial capital. It’s wrapped up in worthwhile work and healthy relationships, in community, freedom and leisure. Wealth should be universal, under that broader definition. I suppose I could have called the blog ‘make false definitions of wealth history’, but it’s not as catchy.
Are you against wealth?
No. There’s nothing wrong with making money or being rich, provided you make that money without exploiting anyone and spend it well. It’s all about how you make it and how you use it. Wealth can be an enormously beneficial thing, if you consider your money to be a resource for doing good in the world, and not just personal spending power.
In that much misquoted verse, the Bible describes ‘the love of money’, not money itself, as the root of all kinds of evil. There’s nothing wrong with being successful and making money, but it’s not healthy for it to be our identity and purpose in life. To elevate avarice to a virtue and build a whole economic system around it, that’s just asking for trouble.
Do you regret the choice of name?
Sometimes. It made more sense at the time, when it clearly echoed the Make Poverty History campaign. The further we get from that, the less relevant it becomes. It’s a first impression thing – if you read a couple of posts, you’ll get it. If you just read the title, you might well scuttle back to your own blog and say ‘check out this eco-socialist moonbat who wants to make wealth history’. But I can live with that.
Ultimately, I like it and sums up my point well. I just need to explain it from time to time.
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