Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Road to Wealth is Stuff

“He who dies with the most toys win!”

You see it on bumper stickers and so may people you see act as if it is their guiding principle in life. So today we'll talk a bit about material wealth or having lots of stuff.

We live in a free market, consumer-driven society. Some people decry this as the end of civilization as we know it. Others see the economic power as providing the most good for the most people. Others hate and fear us and seek to destroy us. The funny thing is that they seem to hate the fact that people are happy and having a good life. Go figure.

No one can deny we live in the wealthiest society that has ever existed on this earth. America is the most generous nation on earth. When there is a tsunami, which county bands together as private citizens to raise millions of dollars to help the victims? When earthquakes strike, who takes their privately owned, extremely expensive Caterpillars and other earth moving equipment to clean up the rubble? When hurricanes strike, where do the “chainsaw brigades” come from to cut up the 100 year old trees lying like twigs in the roads? And the riots start, how can a hand full of police possibly protect thousands of citizens at the same time? People need to have the tools to protect themselves.

Now in a different country with a different type of economy, an individual can't just go out and buy stuff because he or she wants to. The government says only government utility workers can own a chainsaw. So if a bad storm knocks a tree down in the road, an entire town may be cut off until that government agency decides they are ready to remove the tree. Worst case scenario, the town is cut off for weeks, the water supply becomes contaminated, half the town dies from cholera, and the government has that many fewer people to worry about. Its a win-win for the government, a big loser for the citizens.

However, in a free society, there's always one or two guys who just think Husqvarna's are the coolest piece of equipment and have one in their garage. The rest of the town might think its a waste of money, but hey, its a free country, so whatever. Then the storm comes, the tree falls down, the guys need to get to work just like everyone else, so they team up with their Huskies and cut that tree down to size. Then a couple of other guys with those expensive over sized pickup trucks haul the chunks of wood out of the road, and before you know it, life goes back to normal.

In case you had any doubts at this point, I'm a big supporter of having lots of stuff.

But does having lots of stuff mean you are wealthy? We'll talk a bit more about that in another post.