You disparage wealth who have never known poverty. You disparage cleanliness and health from a tower of health and cleanliness. Let me tell you something:
Poverty which is neither sin nor vice is also neither noble nor good.
Poverty is hardship.
Poverty is sickness.
Poverty is misery.
Poverty is death.
The words well, weal, and wealth are etymologically related.
Wealth, in a fundamental sense, is that which humans need to survive and prosper.
Wealth is agriculture. It is clothing. It is carpentry. It is masonry. It is mining. It is fishing. It is transportation. It is technology. It is art, banking, finance, accounting, service industry. It is everything humans need in order to flourish.
Wealth is created. Resources are created.
Wealth is not a finite pool from which we draw and which will one day dry up. It is the opposite:
Like intelligence — and for the exact same reason — neither wealth nor resources are finite or static but developed. They are limitless, just as the human capacity for producing them is limitless.
For all of human history, oil was not a resource, until recently, in the late 1800’s, when human ingenuity created the resource, created this wealth.
New wealth awaits. It always awaits. New resources await.
The source of human progress is human ability, which means above all intellectual ability, and then the physical counterpart of carrying that through.
This process is work.
Liberating human beings — unshackling the brain and the body by allowing humans to innovate and invent and grow and produce and become limitlessly wealthy — this is how you enrich all of society. This is how wealth is created.
It is not trickle-down.
It’s a never-ending deluge, an explosion, an interminable torrent of creativity and wealth.
New wealth arises when someone discovers a new method by means of which humans might better prosper, whether it’s the microscope, the microchip, or the potential energy at the nucleus of an atom. It is in this sense — the literal sense — that wealth is inexhaustible: because the human mind is inexhaustible.
Wealth brings progress.
Wealth brings health.
Wealth brings cleanliness: clean food and clean water and medicine.
Wealth brings homes that are warm in winter and cool in summer.
Wealth brings better methods of travel, more security, more comfort, more peace of mind, greater happiness.
And what brings wealth?
Production brings wealth.
What is production?
Production is work. It is labor — and nothing more fundamental than labor is required for the production of wealth.
What brings this about? What creates production? The answer will surprise you:
Private property, which includes money, which is only a medium.
This and this alone is ultimately what creates production which creates wealth, which creates health and food and shelter and clean water and medicine and comfort and better human life.
The abundance that you’ve always had and that you take for granted — the abundance you enjoy that so many of you want to deprive others of — it was created by the freedom to act and work and the right to own and enjoy the fruits of your acts and your work.
That is private property. It is as much the right to an act as it is to a thing.
Property is an extension of person — we each have a property in our person — and you cannot in any meaningful sense be said to have the right to your own life but not your own property. That is a contradiction in terms.
Property is freedom.
Property is privacy.
Control the property, control the person.
The only alternative to private property is government or communal ownership of property, both of which amount to the same thing in the end: an elite bureau determining for the rest of us what we can do with our actions and the things our actions produce.
I come from exactly such a place. It is a nightmare.
We’re told that no matter how poor we are, we’ll become rich if we but give. Give freely, we’re told, give gladly. Yes, if you choose. But before you can give, you must first have something to give.
Production comes before giving.
And what comes before producing?
The freedom to produce.
Why are some countries so much poorer than others?
The Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto on property and capital, wealth and poverty:
“Many of the poorest countries in the world possess enormous amounts of capital, but their ownership is insecure because of faulty or nonexistent property law or property rights protection. The value of private savings in the ‘poor’ countries of the world is forty times the amount of foreign aid they have received since 1945. [The citizens of poorer countries] hold these resources in defective forms: houses built on land whose ownership rights are not adequately recorded, unincorporated businesses with undefined liability, industries located where financiers and investors cannot see them. Because the rights to these possessions are not adequately documented, these assets cannot readily be turned into capital, cannot be traded outside of narrow local circles, cannot be used as collateral.”
This is why in so much of the world poverty runs rampant.
The greatest environmental degradation and disasters have occurred under regimes with the greatest government control.
True freedom promotes healthy clean environments because true freedom promotes private stewardship and taking care of what’s yours, which among other things increases value.
True laissez faire promotes conservation because it seeks innovation and invention which fosters gain at the lowest expense, which is why developed countries went from using, for instance, expensive copper to less expensive silicon to even less expensive satellite signals and so on.
Freedom promotes better environments because it promotes the constant pursuit of more efficient technology.
You hear endlessly about conditions during the industrial revolution, but you never hear how much worse the conditions were before industrialization. You never hear how nobody forced people, including children, off the farms and into the factories — because they went willingly, because it was a far better alternative to working all day and night on the farms and still starving to death. Or selling their teeth. Or selling themselves or their children into prostitution or even sex slavery.
You never hear how it was only a relatively short time before technology progressed beyond those early working conditions. So that the new inventions and technologies which freedom fosters have lifted us in less than a hundred years to the state-of-the-art place we find ourselves today — and it’s just the beginning. It will only keep going — provided humans are left free and the right to person and property are held sacrosanct.
As long as a society remains poor, the means of dealing with societal issues and externalities, like pollution, necessarily remains poor.
Which is why freer, wealthier countries are cleaner by far than poverty-stricken, statist regimes.
Pollution, waste disposal, externalities, these, no matter what you’re told by government-lovers of every stripe, require technological solutions — not bureaucratic solutions — and laissez faire, with the vast technological superiority it fosters, is not only the best system for such a thing: it’s the ONLY system equipped to deal with technological problems.
Which is why you see, for instance, the utter and nonsensical waste of government-sponsored catastrophes like Yucca Mountain.
It’s why government “solutions” often lead to under-environmental protection, and more cronyism.
It’s why from 1950 through 1970, the amount of volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide in the air fell by more than 20 percent, even though total vehicle miles traveled increased by 120 percent — this before the 1970 Clean Air Act and government involvement.
This was all brought about by means of better, more efficient technology. It was therefore adopted naturally, without coercion.
This is also why the level of sulfur dioxide in the air began falling as early as 1920.
And it’s why the total amount of airborne particulate matter has been reduced by 79 percent since 1940.
Technology, which comes about through wealth-creation, is why water pollution has decreased as world-wide wealth has increased.
When will the monstrous ideology that’s been exalted to the status of God and religion among universities and humans the wide world over — right, left, or middle — when will this ideology be held accountable at last for creating so much misery, so much poverty, so much destruction and death? The ideology that says it’s virtuous to force people to live for one another — through taxation, through the gulag, through the whip, through whatever means necessary?
Because, I promise you, it is an ideology as dangerous and as dogmatic as any religion — and for identical reasons: they’re both predicated upon a policy of pure, unadulterated blind belief.
This is Chapter 18 of my latest novel: Reservation Trash.
Which is now available in bookstores everywhere.