Wealth


Wealth

Wealth is the abundance of valuable resources or material possessions. The word wealth is derived from the old English wela, which is from an Indo-European word stem.[1] An individual, community, region or country that possesses an abundance of such possessions or resources is known as wealthy.

The concept of wealth is of significance in all areas of economics, especially development economics, yet the meaning of wealth is will zellif context-dependent and there is no universally agreed upon definition. Generally, economists define wealth as "anything of value" which captures both the subjective nature of the idea and the idea that it is not a fixed or static concept. Various definitions and concepts of wealth have been asserted by various individuals and in different contexts.[2] Defining wealth can be a normative process with various ethical implications, since often wealth maximization is seen as a goal or is thought to be a normative principle of its own.[3]

Although precise data is not available, the total household wealth in the world has been estimated at $125 trillion (USD 125 x1012) in year 2000[citation needed].

About 90% of global wealth is distributed in North America, Europe, and "rich Asia-Pacific" countries (not including India),[4] and 1% of adults are estimated to hold 40% of world wealth, a number which falls to 32% when adjusted for purchasing power parity.[5]

Contents

Definition

For definitions of "wealth," see also The Wealth of Nations and Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.

Adam Smith, in his seminal work The Wealth of Nations, described wealth as "the annual produce of the land and labour of the society". This "produce" is, at its simplest, that which satisfies human needs and wants of utility. In popular usage, wealth can be described as an abundance of items of economic value, or the state of controlling or possessing such items, usually in the form of money, real estate and personal property. An individual who is considered wealthy, affluent, or rich is someone who has accumulated substantial wealth relative to others in their society or reference group. In economics, net wealth refers to the value of assets owned minus the value of liabilities owed at a point in time.[citation needed] Wealth can be categorized into three principal categories: personal property, including homes or automobiles; monetary savings, such as the accumulation of past income; and the capital wealth of income producing assets, including real estate, stocks, bonds, and businesses.[citation needed] All these delineations make wealth an especially important part of social stratification. Wealth provides a type of social safety net of protection against an unforeseen decline in one’s living standard in the event of job loss or other emergency and can be transformed into home ownership, business ownership, or even a college education.[6][not in citation given]

'Wealth' refers to some accumulation of resources, whether abundant or not. 'Richness' refers to an abundance of such resources. A wealthy (or rich) individual, community, or nation thus has more resources than a poor one. Richness can also refer to at least basic needs being met with abundance widely shared. The opposite of wealth is destitution. The opposite of richness is poverty.

The term implies a social contract on establishing and maintaining ownership in relation to such items which can be invoked with little or no effort and expense on the part of the owner. The concept of wealth is relative and not only varies between societies, but varies between different sections or regions in the same society. A personal net worth of US $10,000 in most parts of the United States would certainly not place a person among the wealthiest citizens of that locale. However, such an amount would constitute an extraordinary amount of wealth in impoverished developing countries.

Concepts of wealth also vary across time. Modern labor-saving inventions and the development of the sciences have enabled the poorest sectors of today's society to enjoy a standard of living equivalent if not superior to the wealthy of the not-too-distant past. This comparative wealth across time is also applicable to the future; given this trend((cn)) of human advancement, it is likely that the standard of living that the wealthiest enjoy today will be considered impoverished by future generations.

Industrialization emphasized the role of technology. Many jobs were automated. Machines replaced some workers while other workers became more specialized. Labour specialization became critical to economic success. However, physical capital, as it came to be known, consisting of both the natural capital and the infrastructural capital, became the focus of the analysis of wealth.[citation needed]

Adam Smith saw wealth creation as the combination of materials, labour, land, and technology in such a way as to capture a profit (excess above the cost of production).[7] The theories of David Ricardo, John Locke, John Stuart Mill, in the 18th century and 19th century built on these views of wealth that we now call classical economics.

Marxian economics (see labor theory of value) distinguishes in the Grundrisse between material wealth and human wealth, defining human wealth as "wealth in human relations"; land and labour were the source of all material wealth.

Economic analysis

In economics, wealth is the net worth of a person, household, or nation, that is, the value of all assets owned net of all liabilities owed at a point in time. For national wealth as measured in the national accounts, the net liabilities are those owed to the rest of the world.[8][9] The term may also be used more broadly as referring to the productive capacity of a society or as a contrast to poverty.[10][11][12] Analytical emphasis may be on its determinants or distribution.[13][14]

Economic terminology distinguishes between two types of variables: stock and flow. Wealth, as measurable at a date in time, is a stock, like the value of an orchard on December 31 minus debt owed on the orchard. For a given amount of wealth, say at the beginning of the year, income from that wealth, as measurable over say a year is a flow. What marks the income as a flow is its measurement per unit of time, like the value of apples yielded from the orchard per year.

In macroeconomic theory the 'wealth effect' may refer to the increase in aggregate consumption from an increase in national wealth. One measure of it is the wealth elasticity of demand. It is the percentage change in the amount demanded of consumption for each one-percent change in wealth.

Wealth may be measured in nominal or real values, that is in money value as of a given date or adjusted to net out price changes. The assets include those that are tangible (land and capital) and financial (money, bonds, etc.). Measurable wealth typically excludes intangible or nonmarketable assets such as human capital and social capital. In economics, 'wealth' corresponds to the accounting term 'net worth'. But analysis may adapt typical accounting conventions for economic purposes in social accounting (such as in national accounts). An example of the latter is generational accounting of social security systems to include the present value projected future outlays considered as liabilities.[15][16] Macroeconomic questions include whether the issuance of government bonds affects investment and consumption through the wealth effect.[17]

Environmental assets are not usually counted in measuring wealth, in part due to the difficulty of valuation for a non-market good. Environmental or green accounting is a method of social accounting for formulating and deriving such measures on the argument that an educated valuation is superior to a value of zero (as the implied valuation of environmental assets).[18][19]

Sociological treatments

"Wealth provides an important mechanism in the intergenerational transmission of inequality."[6] Approximately one half of the wealthiest people in America inherited family fortunes.[citation needed] But the effect of inherited wealth can also be seen on a more modest level. For example, a couple who buy a house with financial help from their parents or a student who has his or her college education paid for; in both scenarios the participants are benefiting directly from the accumulated wealth of previous generations.[6]

Wealth and social class

Social class is not identical to wealth, but the two concepts are related (particularly in Marxist theory), leading to the combined concept of Socioeconomic status.

Partly as a result of different economic conditions of life, members of different social classes often have different value systems and view the world in different ways. As such, there exist different "conceptions of social reality, different aspirations and hopes and fears, different conceptions of the desirable."[20] The way the various social classes in society view wealth vary and these diverse characteristics are a fundamental dividing line among the classes. According to Richard H Ropers, the concentration of wealth in the United States is inequitably distributed.[21] In 1996, the United States federal government reported that the net worth of the top 1 percent of people in the United States was approximately equal to that of the bottom 90 percent.[6]

The upper class

Upper class values include higher education, and the wealthiest people the accumulation and maintenance of wealth, the maintenance of social networks and the power that accompanies such networks. Children of the upper class are typically schooled on how to manage this power and channel this privilege in different forms. It is in large part by accessing various edifices of information[clarification needed], associates, procedures and auspices that the upper class are able to maintain their wealth and pass it to future generations.[22]

The middle class

The middle class places a greater emphasis on income. The middle class views wealth as something for emergencies and it is seen as more of a cushion. This class comprises people that were raised with families that typically owned their own home, planned ahead and stressed the importance of education and achievement. They earn a significant amount of income and also have significant amounts of consumption. However there is very limited savings (deferred consumption) or investments, besides retirement pensions and homeownership. They have been socialized to accumulate wealth through structured, institutionalized arrangements. Without this set structure, asset accumulation would likely not occur.[22]

The lower class

Those with the least amount of wealth are the welfare poor. (see underclass) Wealth accumulation for this class is to some extent prohibited. People that receive AFDC transfers cannot own more than a trivial amount of assets, in order to be eligible and remain qualified for income transfers. Most of the institutions that the welfare poor encounter discourage any accumulation of assets.[22]

Distribution

Wealth in the form of land

In the western tradition, the concepts of owning land and accumulating wealth in the form of land were engendered in the rise of the first state, for a primary service and power of government was, and is to this day, the awarding and adjudication of land use rights.

Land ownership was also justified according to John Locke. He claimed that because we mix[clarification needed] our labour with the land, we thereby deserve the right to control the use of the land and benefit from the product of that land (but subject to his Lockean proviso of "at least where there is enough, and as good left in common for others.").

Additionally, in developed countries post-agrarian society (Industrial society) this argument has many critics (including those influenced by Georgist and geolibertarian ideas) who argue that since land, by definition, is not a product of human labor, any claim of private property in it is a form of theft; as David Lloyd George observed, "to prove a legal title to land one must trace it back to the man who stole it."

Many older ideas have resurfaced in the modern notions of ecological stewardship, bioregionalism, natural capital, and ecological economics.

See also

References

  1. ^ [1] "wealth." The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed., Houghton Mifflin Company. Accessed 21 Feb. 2009.
  2. ^ Denis "Authentic Development: Is it Sustainable?", pp. 189-205 in Building Sustainable Societies, Dennis Pirages, ed., M.E. Sharpe, ISBN 1-56324-738-0, 9781563247385. (1996)
  3. ^ [2] Anthony T. Kronman, "Wealth Maximization as a Normative Principle", The Journal of Legal Studies, vol. 9 (March 1980)
  4. ^ James B. Davies, Susanna Sandström, Anthony Shorrocks, and Edward N. Wolff. (2008). The World Distribution of Household Wealth, p8. UNU-WIDER.
  5. ^ James B. Davies, Susanna Sandström, Anthony Shorrocks, and Edward N. Wolff. (2008). The World Distribution of Household Wealth. UNU-WIDER.
  6. ^ a b c d Gilbert, Dennis. The American Class Structure in an Age of Growing Inequality . N.p.: Wadsworth Publishing;, 2002.
  7. ^ Smith, Adam. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations
  8. ^ Paul A. Samuelson and William D. Nordhaus (2004, 18th ed.). Economics, "Glossary of Terms."
  9. ^ Nancy D. Ruggles (1987). "social accounting," The New Palgrave: A Dictionary of Economics, v. 4, pp. 377-82, esp. p. 380.
  10. ^ Adam Smith (1776). The Wealth of Nations.
  11. ^ David S. Landes. (1998) The Wealth and Poverty of Nations. Review.
  12. ^ Partha Dasgupta (1993). An Inquiry into Well-Being and Destitution. Description and review.
  13. ^ John Bates Clark (1902). The Distribution of Wealth Analytical Table of Contents.
  14. ^ E.N. Wolff (2002). "Wealth Distribution," International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, pp. 16394-16401. Abstract.
  15. ^ Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 1987, “social security," The New Palgrave: A Dictionary of Economics, v. 4, pp. 413-18. Stockton Press.
  16. ^ Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 1992, Generational Accounting. Free Press.
  17. ^ Robert J. Barro (1974). "Are Government Bonds Net Wealth?", Journal of Political Economy, 8(6), pp. 1095-1111.
  18. ^ Sjak Smulders, 2008. "green national accounting," The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, 2nd Edition. Abstract.
  19. ^ United States National Research Council, 1994. Assigning Economic Value to Natural Resources, National Academy Press. Chapter-preview links.
  20. ^ Aspects of Poverty. Ed. Ben B Seligman. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1968.
  21. ^ Ropers, Richard H, Ph.D. Persistent Poverty: The American Dream Turned Nightmare. New York: Insight Books, 1991.
  22. ^ a b c Sherraden, Michael. Assets and the Poor: A New American Welfare Policy. Armonk: M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 1991.

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  • wealth — [welθ] noun [uncountable] a large amount of money or valuable possessions: • Colombia s economy needn t rely solely on its mineral wealth. • The legislation is designed to give American firms the ability to generate wealth from overseas… …   Financial and business terms

  • wealth — [ welθ ] noun uncount ** 1. ) a large amount of money and other valuable things: They used some of their wealth to build magnificent town halls. People acquired wealth in the form of goods or animals. a ) the state of being rich: He had an… …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • wealth´i|ly — wealth|y «WEHL thee», adjective, wealth|i|er, wealth|i|est, noun. –adj. 1. having wealth; rich: »a very wealthy man, a wealthy country. SYNONYM( …   Useful english dictionary

  • Wealth|y — «WEHL thee», adjective, wealth|i|er, wealth|i|est, noun. –adj. 1. having wealth; rich: »a very wealthy man, a wealthy country. SYNONYM( …   Useful english dictionary

  • wealth|y — «WEHL thee», adjective, wealth|i|er, wealth|i|est, noun. –adj. 1. having wealth; rich: »a very wealthy man, a wealthy country. SYNONYM( …   Useful english dictionary

  • Wealth — Wealth, n. [OE. welthe, from wele; cf. D. weelde luxury. See {Weal} prosperity.] [1913 Webster] 1. Weal; welfare; prosperity; good. [Obs.] Let no man seek his own, but every man another s wealth. 1 Cor. x. 24. [1913 Webster] 2. Large possessions; …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • wealth — W3 [welθ] n [Date: 1200 1300; Origin: weal good condition of life, prosperity (11 19 centuries), from Old English wela] 1.) [U] a large amount of money, property etc that a person or country owns ▪ The country s wealth comes from its oil. ▪ the… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • wealth — [welth] n. [ME welthe, wealth, happiness: see WEAL2 & TH1] 1. a) much money or property; great amount of worldly possessions; riches b) the state of having much money or property; affluence [a person of wealth] …   English World dictionary

  • wealth — index assets, boom (prosperity), economy (economic system), effects, finance, income, means (funds) …   Law dictionary

  • wealth — mid 13c., happiness, also prosperity in abundance of possessions or riches, from M.E. wele well being (see WEAL (Cf. weal) (1)) on analogy of HEALTH (Cf. health) …   Etymology dictionary

  • wealth — [n] money, resources abundance, affluence, assets, belongings, bounty, cache, capital, cash, clover*, commodities, copiousness, cornucopia, dough*, estate, fortune, funds, gold, goods, hoard, holdings, lap of luxury*, long green*, lucre,… …   New thesaurus


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