Are We Really So “Rich”? A New Way of Defining Wealth, by Charles Hugh Smith

Our definition of wealth is quite impoverished. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:

What if our commoditized, financialized definition of wealth reflects a staggering poverty of culture, spirit, wisdom, practicality and common sense?

The conventional definition of wealth is solely financial: ownership of money and assets. The assumption is that money can buy anything the owner desires: power, access, land, shelter, energy, transport and if not love, then a facsimile of caring.

The flaw in this reductionist definition is obvious: not everything of value can be purchased at any price–for example, health, once lost, cannot be purchased for $1 million, $10 million or even $100 million. A facsimile of friendship can be purchased (i.e. companions willing to trade fake friendliness for money), but true friendship cannot be bought at any price: its very nature renders friendship a non-commodity.

This explains the abundance of wealthy people who are miserable, lonely and phony to the core. Only commoditized goods and services can be bought with money or assets.

Given the limits of the conventional model of wealth, the question naturally arises: what if we defined wealth more by what cannot be bought rather than by what can be bought? Another way of making the distinction is to ask: what has been commoditized/globalized such that any person with money anywhere on the planet can buy it? What cannot be commoditized because it is intrinsically inaccessible to commodification?

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