The Wealth of Our Nation

What is the basis for our wealth?
In ancient times it was, let’s say, agricultural surplus, which included crops and livestock beyond immediate need.
Then a new technology was forged from the hand of man–metallurgy. This fiery artisanry developed as a means for making tools, the use of which increased productivity in agriculture, thus increasing wealth and redefining it. Metals–iron, copper, bronze, silver, gold–became a larger component in what was considered to be wealth.
As the productivity of mankind increased through use of tools, our exchanges of metals became more refined. The basic metals such as iron and copper remained mostly utilitarian in their applications. Gold and silver emerged as king and queen of wealth exchanges.
Eventually, gold was brought into the spotlight as master of exchange media. Platinum came along as a sort of  eccentric cousin. Silver was a helpful tagalong.  But gold was king of commerce for millenia, and remained steadfastly on that regal pedestal until the twentieth century.
I don’t why this refinement of our metallic preferences happened. Call it, what, vanity? Gold is beautiful. Or aesthetics–call it a gilty pleasure. Who isn’t awed by its brilliance?
Then guess what, in the twentieth century we exchanged gold for paper. Go figure.
Well, the paper is  easier to carry in your wallet, for one thing, and easier to manipulate, for another.
So what is, now, the basis for wealth? Now that we’ve traded our gold for paper?
Excuse me, now we’re trading our paper for electrons.
So what, now, is the basis of wealth?
It is the productivity of our people. Trust me in this.
In case you haven’t noticed, we left the gold standard in post-industrial dust long ago. We do see that gold, with its presently rising price, is making a valiant effort among contrarians to reestablish itself as the basis for wealth. But you know what? You can’t have it for breakfast, and I know you’re not going to pay bills with gold.
As a basis for wealth, gold is gone, paper is too common, electronic transfers are convenient, but they have to be backed up with something–some assurance of value.
So truly, it is the productivity of our people which is the basis of our wealth.
And what, you may ask, is the basis for our productivity?
Ultimately, it is the earth itself. How many thousands of years have we infantile humans been sucking on the teat of mother earth? She’s made us fat and happy–most of us, anyway.
But she is getting old, and worn-out.
That is why “green” technologies need to be so much more than just political correctness. We need to get busy in maintaining and  conserving (there’s a misunderstood word!) ole mother earth’s bounteous-but-depleting basis for our wealth.
We haven’t quite figured out how to negotiate that “green” transition yet; it is an intuitive kind of change now, for most of us anyway, who are not savvy on optimizing sustainability. We’ll figure out eventually though. That’s why education is so important.
Here’s the fundamental question of our era: How do we extract from the earth what we need for productivity and wealth without destroying it?
I suggest that this transition toward better productivity is the purpose of this great recession through which we now persevere. It is, as they say in stock market lingo, a correction.
We need to work smarter, get more value for less resources and, yes, less work ’cause everybody needs a job. We might need to cut back hours, and yes, wages, a bit to get everyone busy again.
We need greater productivity.
That will be the basis of our wealth in the 21st century.
Now is the time for all good men and women to come to the improvement of their country.  Let’s make this nation, by working smarter and more appropriately, a better place to live.
What will you do to contribute to the renewal of our United States of America?

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