miscellaneous

About the title of this blog

This is a bit of a housekeeping post, but I’m going to add it as a permanent page too. It’s necessary because the title of this blog is easily misunderstood. I tend to get two kinds of reactions when I tell it to people. 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 can be an obstacle to being taken seriously and that’s a bit of a problem.

So this is a little Q+A about the title of the blog. I’ll probably link it straight from the homepage with a sort of ‘don’t panic’ button.

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: 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 live 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 and 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’m 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. Under that broader definition, wealth should be universal. 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 evil. Being financially successful is all well and good, but it’s not healthy for it to be our identity and sole purpose in life. And 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?
Occasionally. It made more sense at the time, when it clearly echoed the Make Poverty History campaign. The further we get from that, the more explanation it needs. 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.

7 comments

  1. I think we are very much aligned on this Jeremy as you might read from our paper which ends:

    ‘There is nothing wrong with individuals becoming wealthy. It is only when wealth begins to concentrate in the hands of a relative few at the expense of billions of others who are denied even a small share of finite wealth that trouble starts and physical, human suffering begins. It does not have to be this way. Massive greed and consequent massive human misery and suffering do not have to be accepted as a givens, unavoidable, intractable, irresolvable. Just changing the way business is done, if only by a few companies, can change the flow of wealth, ease and eliminate poverty, and leave us all with something better to worry about. Basic human needs such as food and shelter are fundamental human rights; there are more than enough resources available to go around–if we can just figure out how to share. It cannot be “Me first, mine first”; rather, “Me, too” is more the order of the day.’

    The core argument describes how by money imagined into existence, wealth accumulates in the hands of a minority:

    I take it as read that you mean make the extremes of wealth history.

    1. Yes, the line above about unbalanced and perverse wealth includes that extreme inequality. That doesn’t mean that there’d be no billionaires in my ideal world, but we can do better than our current system which thinks making billionaires their second billion is more of a priority than getting people from $1 a day to $2 a day.

      And yes, I support your statement there. I’ve read the People-Centred Economics manifesto before, but I need to read it more closely. It has a logic to it that is worth taking some time over. Thanks for the link.

  2. Jeremy, the blog name is catchy and says what I naturally take it to mean – the concept of having wealth made a thing of the past. However, it does not mean this and it takes more than a few blogs to discover your view that there is nothing wrong in being rich it all depends on how it is made and used. We are not likely ever to stop wealth, (whatever ones opinion on its right or wrong) but, as much as I like your blog, I came to it believing in the title and found much later that it had misled me. I see you have set your mind to it, but I have to tell you that the matter is not, as easily found out as you say, and this is evident in your need to explain it, despite some taking it as read or their agreement with your views on wealth. I hope you appreciate my view. Best wishes.

    1. It’s not possible to literally make wealth history, and to attempt it would be tyrannical. But we can try and change society and politics to make things more fair, to distribute wealth better, to prioritise real needs and to protect the environment. I think that’s fairly evident in the posts, but a blog is a body of work. You can’t say everything you mean in every post, so yes, perhaps some key principles are harder to find than others.

  3. I didn’t receive this in my e-mail (maybe I forgot to tick the notify, although there have been some unexplained changes with wordpress in last few weeks that I’m trying to resolve). Anyway, I just wanted to say that I think a title of ‘Shared Wealth’, or /Wealth Shared’, or ‘Make Wealth Shared’, or ‘Let’s Share Wealth’ – any of these (or something similar), would be more accurate/truthful to your views and blog. Regards.

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