About the title

I tend to get two kinds of reactions when I tell people the name of my blog. They either go “ha, fantastic” or they say nothing and sort of shuffle awkwardly. They usually recover when I explain it, but I realise that the title of my blog is a little inflammatory. So this is a little Q+A about what I mean and don’t mean by ‘make wealth history’.

Why did you call it Make Wealth History?
I began writing about these issues around the time of the Make Poverty History campaign, so it made a nice parallel. It comes down to a simple observation about developed and undeveloped countries. It’s this: we hope that poor countries will eventually ‘develop’ and become more like us – but this is impossible. There isn’t enough oil, land, water, forests or atmosphere for 7 billion people to all consume like Europeans or Americans.

So we have a problem. Either we need to stop the poor from developing so that we can carry on consuming, or we need to consume less to create space for a new kind of development. I argue for the second option, that if we want to make poverty history, we have to make wealth history at the same time.

Do you really want to make wealth history?
If we’re talking about a simplistic view of wealth as an abstract ‘more’, then yes. And that’s the standard view of most governments, which take Gross Domestic Product as their measure of success. If we’re talking about the unbalanced and perverse wealth that allows a billion people to overeat while a billion other people go hungry, then yes, let’s consign that to history too. But if you think I want to end private property, or confiscate and redistribute your goodies, then no.

True wealth is broader than financial capital. It’s wrapped up in worthwhile work and healthy relationships, in community, freedom and leisure. Wealth should be universal, under that broader definition. I suppose I could have called the blog ‘make false definitions of wealth history’, but it’s not as catchy.

Are you against wealth?
No. There’s nothing wrong with making money or being rich, provided you make that money without exploiting anyone and spend it well. It’s all about how you make it and how you use it. Wealth can be an enormously beneficial thing, if you consider your money to be a resource for doing good in the world, and not just personal spending power.

In that much misquoted verse, the Bible describes ‘the love of money’, not money itself, as the root of all kinds of evil. There’s nothing wrong with being successful and making money, but it’s not healthy for it to be our identity and purpose in life. To elevate avarice to a virtue and build a whole economic system around it, that’s just asking for trouble.

Do you regret the choice of name?
Sometimes. It made more sense at the time, when it clearly echoed the Make Poverty History campaign. The further we get from that, the less relevant it becomes. It’s a first impression thing – if you read a couple of posts, you’ll get it. If you just read the title, you might well scuttle back to your own blog and say ‘check out this eco-socialist moonbat who wants to make wealth history’. But I can live with that.

Ultimately, I like it and sums up my point well. I just need to explain it from time to time.

Got more questions? Try the FAQ.

14 Comments on “About the title”

  1. Joe Owens December 21, 2012 at 12:17 pm #

    I got a great opportunity to witness this in person during my 8 day mission trip to Belize last week. The people there get by on so much less than we do in America. It is a developing copuntry, but nowhere near a pace to resemble my home. But you know what, I was okay with the way they live their life. IN fact it nade me quite disgusted. I came home last weekend and looked in my closet and thought it was a disgusting display of excess I intend to remedy today.

    You have gained a fan with your purpose and I will be following your writing. Godspeed on your journey and let me know if I may assist.

    • Jeremy December 21, 2012 at 12:19 pm #

      Thanks Joe, there’s nothing like seeing a simpler way of life and then coming home to put things in perspective. Good luck with the remedying, whatever form that may take!

      • Stuart July 18, 2017 at 8:14 pm #

        So, would it be out of line to suggest that what your site is really about – at least in part – is “Efficient and Effective Use of World Resources” or “Wealth as a Force For Good?”

        • Jeremy Williams July 19, 2017 at 9:38 am #

          In part, yes. Though whenever I’ve stopped to think about whether there’s a better name – and I’m sure there are – I can never think of anything that encompasses everything I want to cover.

  2. Andy Fairbanks December 21, 2012 at 8:01 pm #

    I found your wonderful blog when “The Changing Culture of Disposability” was among those Freshly Pressed. (Congrats!) Thanks for including the LIFE magazine article link. Besides an excellent cultural artifact, the image reminds me of Philippe Halsman’s “Dali Atomicus” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Salvador_Dali_A_(Dali_Atomicus)_09633u.jpg).

    I wanted to share a thought about your blog’s title: Perhaps it could be understood as a turn of the phrase? Rather than making wealth *history*, as in a thing of the past, perhaps we can imagine making *wealth history*—a different vision of wealth—to which you allude: “True wealth is broader than financial capital. It’s wrapped up in worthwhile work and healthy relationships, in community, freedom and leisure. Wealth should be universal, under that broader definition.” (Well said.)

    Maybe I see it that way because I’m also exploring ideals of wealth and community, as well as sustainability, while taking a gap year. (See http://agoatcalledandy.wordpress.com/2012/08/20/the-peoples-van/.)

    I’m finding a lot of great writing and other info on your site, so thank you and keep up the great work!

    • Jeremy December 22, 2012 at 9:25 am #

      Yes, it works that way too. Thanks for your comment!

  3. Ken Roberts March 11, 2013 at 7:27 pm #

    Just discovered you blog while investigating ethical options for changing my bank. A lot of valid criticisms and concerns about the true ethicality(?) of the Coop, but surely having some ethical policy is better than banks with no apparent moral standards, and a policy of obscene salary/termination payouts, isn’t it?
    My only hesitation about transferring to the Coop bank is the adverse comments on their online banking, which I utilise almost excusively with my existing bank. Can you offer any advise on this please?
    You’re doing a great job, Jeremy, keep it up!

    • Jeremy March 12, 2013 at 10:17 am #

      Yes, I don’t there is a truly ethical bank offering current accounts, so it’s a lesser of two evils thing. I bank with the Co-op and use their online banking, which is fine. It’s not quite as sophisticated as some others, but it works fine and it’s secure – they send you a pin machine. I’ve never had any trouble with it, and customer service was very quick to answer the phone when I got locked out once after forgetting my password. I think some of the complaints on the other post were about Smile, which is a different service, and I can’t comment on that one.

  4. Ellie March 19, 2014 at 3:27 am #

    SL

  5. Keith May 27, 2014 at 8:17 pm #

    Interesting web site. Nice to see an environmentalist who recognizes that socialism isn’t the answer to the detriments of consumerism. I am curious to know, however, how you recommend a nation “pursue [wealth] equality” without redistributing wealth.

    A comment concerning this:

    “There isn’t enough oil, land, water, forests or atmosphere for 7 billion people to all live like Europeans or Americans.”

    I suggest you change “live like” to “consume like”, otherwise this statement appears to boil down the entire American/European lifestyle to mere consumerism, which I think is grossly inaccurate. Fundamentally, Americans enjoy freedom, safety, and civility at a far greater level than their Asian, African, or South American counterparts, which does result in greater economic prosperity. Such prosperity we would agree is a good thing, though it can produce an environmentally-harmful consumerism if left unchecked. That’s where regulation comes in.

    Long story short, economic prosperity and sustainability are not mutually exclusive (and you seem to agree). If economic prosperity is one of the hallmarks of America, then I certainly hope that 3rd world countries would develop into nations more like ours. They have not done so, and it has nothing to do with resources — Africa and Asia are teeming with resources. The success of Western Civilization can be traced back, without much effort, to the Protestant Reformation and those nations that were most affected by it.

    Speaking of Christianity, 1 Timothy 6:10 says that the love of money is the root of all *kinds* of evil. Evil goes deeper than the love of money. Evil is fundamentally breaking God’s law, which is the standard of love toward God and others.

    Thanks for reading.

    • Jeremy May 28, 2014 at 9:32 am #

      Good point on live like/consume like, I’ve changed that as you suggest – along with the Bible reference too (In the King James version it says ‘root of all evil’. That’s the phrase that’s passed into popular culture, so I used it here. Modern translations add the qualifier)

      How do we create more equality? Redistribution may play a part in reducing inequality, but if you have to keep leaning on it long term then you’re treating the symptoms and not the causes of inequality. At the heart of it you need fair pay, avoiding excessive wages to top executives, and different business models so that employees share in profits. Japan operates more like this, preferring to avoid creating inequality in the first place.

      As for prosperity, unfortunately there is a conflict between prosperity and sustainability – but only if we take the narrow view of economic wealth expressed through owning more stuff. I think we need to rebalance our view of wealth and find our satisfaction more in the things that really make us happy – good work, relationships, community and purpose.

  6. mark December 18, 2014 at 12:48 pm #

    im thinking since us pathetic humans might not have much time then time becomes more valuable. wealth is time or a history. cant have one if we dont survive

    cheers

    writing a book about how to fix the mess, going to include why our leaders are always incompetant, human behavior and an economic model that will bring all 7 billion of us a much richer lifestyle. just going to make very much more efficient use of resources.

  7. Rusdy December 21, 2016 at 2:35 am #

    Hi Jeremy, I think you should write a Bible Study material for this topic. I’ve been struggling to find bible study material that covers social justice that is rich in theological content (not just a mere action points). Our sustainable living, thoughtful use of resources (and energy), etc etc are the implication of understanding the theology of Good Samaritan. I think it’s long overdue to counterbalance the ‘Make Poverty History’.

    Please?

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