What is the Wealth of a Country?

16 Feb

Basic Wealth

At a common sense level, if the nation produces enough to feed its population, give them clean water, give them housing, educate them to a good level, protect them both internally and externally and give them adequate medical facilities, then I think we can say that the country is wealthy.

Of course, to deliver the above list, the nation needs a suitable infrastructure.  This infrastructure is largely different networks.  They include road and/or rail, distribution, electricity distribution, gas distribution, water distribution, telecommunications, sewage removal, waste disposal.
Certainly we can say that those nations who lack these capabilities and networks are somewhat impoverished.
Clearly, money is needed to make these things happen. But wealth is not really about money.  It is about what the money produces.  
Intrinsic Wealth
Imagine a totally isolated farming community in a fertile area.  If the population work together, they could produce enough food and housing, extract water from a local (clean) river, protect themselves and give adequate education.  Maybe medicine and some of the more technical networks might be a problem but they could probably be self sufficient in wood energy, distribution, waste and sewage disposal.  And, in principle, they could do it with no money.  Compared to impoverished parts of the third world they would be quite wealthy.
My point is that some basic wealth comes from organisation and natural resources.  And these resources can even be reusable.
Imported Wealth
Our isolated community can increase its wealth by buying in the more technical and complex elements such as telecommunications, gas and electricity.  To pay for these goods our community will have to export something.  It could be raw materials the have extracted, or surplus food they have grown or it could be some product or skill where they have the specialist knowledge to add value.
My main point is that the basic wealth is strong enough to produce a surplus.
Ancient Egypt had huge food surpluses.  So there was enough available workforce to build the pyramids.
So what’s my Point?
In a recent visit to India, it was shocking how much rubbish there was just lying in the streets.  Shopkeepers would just sweep any plastic bags, cups, bottles and bags just a yard or so from their shop front.  Villages were truly filthy.  Yet at the same time there were always loads of men just standing around talking to each other.  Clearly there are surpluses in India or they would not be able to just hang out.
We just felt like giving them all a good shake and telling them to get their ass in gear and clean up.  It could be so easy.  But there is no will or system to organise.  Ridiculous.
To a lesser degree we have the same issue.  In the UK, apparently the unemployment rate is 8.4%.  These unfortunate people are paid so called “Benefits” by the government.  To get these handouts they have to prove to the agency that they are looking for work, even though there may be no vacancies.  They have to show their research and their job application forms.  They are paid to look for work.
They are not creating any wealth.  They are just using up the surplus resources.  Yet there are potholes in the roads, rubbish in the streets, foreigners coming in to pick the fruit in the autumn.  The infrastructure is crumbling.  Gas pipes are rotting away under our streets.  Buildings need repair.
Why can’t we create a list of things that need to be done and pay “Benefits” to people for doing these tasks?
Oh the Trades Unions will complain that it’s a way of reducing wages.  They should be overruled.
Finding work for the relatively unskilled is a problem.  One relatively straightforward idea might be to give people tax relief when they hire staff.  The relatively unskilled could quickly be trained for domestic work.  People who can afford it would be more likely to employ people.  Unemployment down, surpluses not being wasted.
The criticism is always that domestic work is demeaning.  What a load of tosh.  Being unemployed and unable to find work, that is demeaning.

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