Where does wealth come from?


This story cannot be told enough times.

After Christ died, in the New Testament, we read that the believers formed a church and they held things in common. We don’t know all the details of how they operated the church and such but a few stories in the Acts and elsewhere suggest that one of the major roles of the church was to accept and distribute property and food and to care for the needy.

When the pilgrims first came to America, they wanted to build that same system. They held the property in common trust, and people worked the land. This is not unlike communism that is often proposed as a superior model to capitalism.

This worked for a year. And then they ran out of food and almost starved to death.

The next year they tried something different. Each family was assigned a parcel of land and allowed to keep whatever they grew on that land.

That worked for a year, and in the end of the year, they had so much surplus that they had a huge feast.

Since that time, abundance hasn’t really left America’s shores because in our very national essence we have this idea encoded. The idea is simply this: Keep what you make.

Now, communists will try to tell you that the factory owners are somehow bilking the factory workers out of their hard-earned money and such. Yet it is these same communists who say some great injustice is committed when the factories are closed down. If the factory jobs are actually stealing from the workers, wouldn’t it be a good thing to close the factory down? I mean, who can complain when we shut down a network of thieves?

The core essence of capitalism (a name not chosen for itself but given by communists to ridicule it) is that people own things. They get to decide what to do with their time, their energy, their assets. And they keep what they do with their things. In the case of the factory, communists ignore the vast effort that went in to planning the factory and acquiring the right machines and the right people and tools to keep the machines running. The actual factory workers are a small part of the entire enterprise, and rewarded according to their value. The owner of the factory doesn’t really care about them anymore than they care about the land or the building or the machines in the building. They are just another thing that are “owned” that requires maintenance but produces some value. The moment workers or machines or factories no longer deliver value or cost more than they produce, they get shut down or turned away or sold, or even melted down for scrap metal to be recast in a new machine that is useful.

The story I like to tell is when I gave all of my kids an equal share of popsicles. The youngest kids quickly ate theirs up but my eldest put his in the freezer because he wanted to save it for later. Next thing you know, the younger kids see some kind of injustice in the fact that there is only one popsicle and my oldest son has it while they have none. It’s hard for a little mind to understand that connected to all actions is a consequence, but more importantly, once you undertake that action, you own the consequence, good or bad. If you chose to eat the popsicle, that means you have no popsicle. If you saved it, you get to keep it.

Please share the story of the first Thanksgiving with all you know. It’s important to realize that the food that fed the pilgrims didn’t come from an Indian showing them how to fertilize their crops but from the work that actually fertilized the crops and built fences and tilled and weeded the fields. Knowing how to do something is never as valuable as actually doing it.

And keep in mind. The reason why we have factories and things are because someone, somewhere, decided to save what they earned for later, and then wisely invested their surplus. If we behave like little children and take from those who have more because they have more we are no better than thieves ourselves.

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