What is Wealth, and the Problem of Money

I just watched a video of a young woman being interviewed on a national news network about changes she wants to see in the higher education system and its funding. The woman tells a story about her and her family’s struggle with finding the money to fund her education. She related the injustices she sees in inopportune conditions and feels compelled to make a difference.

Indeed, a difference needs to be made, but not in the way the young woman says it should. The woman suggests that the One Percent should contribute more, to the point of fully funding higher education. She says that the wealth of the nation is disproportionately distributed and that the One Percent have engineered the system in their own favor, but it is exactly that same system that will allow anyone to increase in wealth.

I do say anyone and not everyone for this reason: it is the solely the choice of the individual to become wealthy. Wealth is something built, and it is built mostly directly out of what is contributed. In other words, wealth is an abundance of value created. The money exchanged only represents that value.

When an artist creates a masterpiece, he becomes wealthy. The money he sells it for is the representation of that transfer of wealth. When one is educated, he gains a wealth of knowledge and understanding, and in exchange pays the professors, faculty, and dean (the custodian as well if it is a brick and mortar institute). The money is a representation of the value exchanged. When a farmer grows food, he is creating value: nutrition for his neighbors. The delivery person also creates value when he makes it easier to purchase these foods. When a businessman sells any product or service, it is supposed to increase the wealth of himself and his customer, and the monetary exchange represents it. Wealth is not a number; it is a state of being.

The entire reason that wealth is disproportionate in our nation is because the value is disproportionately generated. I don’t mean this as an insult to anyone who is working hard but still struggling financially. That being said, plenty of people have come out of struggle and into wealth by doing what they were made to do. The most valuable thing one can do is work with his own nature, gifting, ability, etc. As Howard Thurman said, “…What the world needs is more people who have come alive.” Value is best created by coming alive.

We need not make the One Percent pay for education; that would be handing out fish, and we would quickly become another Greece. What we need to do is make fishermen, people who know how to create the value needed to sustain healthy living. Imagine a world in which the vast majority can afford a great education, housing, and healthcare.

From another perspective, I would like to ask the question why does it have to cost this much? How may we reduce financial burden? Let me tell you that the answer is not to defer that burden to someone else, which is simply shrugging the responsibility for someone else to pick up. The buck stops here.

Several people come to mind, including Dan Miller, author of 48 Days to the Work You Love and No More Dreaded Mondays, and Kary Oberbrunner, author of Day Job to Dream Job. Another book that comes to mind is Change Your Questions, Change Your Life, by Dr. Marilee Adams; the change in question I would make is discarding how can I make others pay for this, and in its place put how can I generate the value needed to afford this?

This kind of thinking will be transformative if it can be adopted by our underprivileged neighbors. That is exactly the trick, though: to present this in such a way that it can be accepted. Another name that comes to mind is Dave Ramsey, who would agree that convincing poor people to think like rich people is a challenge indeed, but not impossible at all.

We do have a solution emerging. Barely one year ago, Simbi, a community creating a symbiotic economy, was founded. In this community, dollars and cents are not exchanged, but services. This opens the communities who have less to resources limited only by what they can do, not how little money exists. People don’t have to wait for the economy to improve because they are the economy. Wealth can be made right where they are.

We all have the resources and ability to be wealthy. What can we do to tap into that across our nation and world? What are your ideas? Comment below.