Mr. Schock -- a Theory of Wealth
So how can we as a nation of individuals build our wealth? Security is a factor for even those wealthy individuals in the 1%. Cultural perceptions add to security. If everyone is invested in society, feels they are part of a fair economy, security is higher. Economic fairness builds wealth even for the 1%. Creativity creates wealth, for the artist often not in his or her lifetime. Discovery will create wealth and is the result of pure research, so increasing research can build wealth. All these non quantifiable developments can create wealth for a nation. Activity beyond the control of even the so called wealthiest 1% individuals can add to their wealth or make their wealth less secure.
My wife and I are secure, we do not have an ostentatious lifestyle, but a comfortable one. Simply saving more, investing better, winning a lottery (I have never bought a ticket, so my chances are low), or some other asset building can not be viewed outside of the wealth of the collective nation. If my nation doesn't fix the roads in my region I can't drive. If I don't have reliable access to utilities, energy, data connections, water, and sanitation my city isn't livable. I can't grow all my own food, most people have no concept of growing all their own food. Allowing everyone to lead not more ostentatious lives, but secure lives, more comfortable lives is a nation's aspiration. An economic system focused on the individual does not mean adding to everyone's net worth. Individual net worth is not the only way to increase wealth and security for our nation.
There are lessons to be learned from the farm family community I grew up in.
Wealth is measured by an individual's expectations of need. If I worry I will fall short of my financial needs, I won't feel wealthy. Wealth is somewhat related to health, in modern America it is, without insurance bad health will bankrupt a family. A sense of wealth can require many components, net worth only one of them. To pursue to logical conclusions any of the Randian portentions of our current cult of government devolvement would lower everyone's wealth. Their proposals would make our society more like the Medieval Age.
We do have a fascination for the medieval age, at least in literature. The hottest TV series is HBO's Game of Thrones. Fans still eagerly await Martin's sixth book in the series, each book nearly a thousand pages. An adult oriented series communicating to the reader that there is no justice in world. In the land of Westeros during the War of the Five Kings it is the small folk who suffer the most. Small folk in this fantasy series are farmers, inn keepers, smiths, and other tradesman that reside in the land surrounding a castle. The components of this social organization make life for the group flourish. War disrupts the social adaptation of food production and other needs in the habitat, now all suffer. After the crisis the habitat is rebuilt. The wealth of the group is interdependent, small folk may suffer more but everyone's wealth depends on the success of each other. Even if they do not recognize their dependence on each other.
Like the small folk in the Game of Thrones series, we are just working people trying to raise our families. We are not lords, nor knights, but are members of the modern productive class. Still a good lord defending the realm is important to those in the productive class. Even a rich merchant who has to provide for his own security sees his wealth diminished.These Houses and their lands as they are referred to by George RR Martin are a group. A group's existence depends on a habitat. For a group to flourish the conditions of the habitat must allow it to flourish.
Individuals sometimes consider wealth a personal sense of accomplishment, a scoreboard displaying winner or loser. While all of us understand wealth in some way as the individual, what is society's wealth indicator? E. O. Wilson, The Social Conquest of Earth has studied what makes for successful species. He also is the co-author of Ants. In the history of life on Earth he has searched for what separates successful species from those less successful. In insects it is the maintenance of a group, which requires a nest. In humans we might call it habitat. A nest allows for storage of food, care and protection of young, diversification of labor and roles. Humans may have started in caves or trees, then learned to build a village, a fortress, a city; human groups became so successful other groups of humans became our greatest threat.