All wealth comes from natural resources. It is the exploitation of what is already in existence in the natural world that is the “source” of (all) wealth. The cost of these resources is not the resources themselves (they’re free – already in existence), but the human labor involved and represented in their extraction and processing.
Natural resources by themselves are not “economically valuable” unless they have been converted into human requirements. If they are not desired by humans, they are deemed “worthless” economically speaking, which is another way of saying unless it has value to humans – it’s disposable. Once natural resources are deemed valuable, their value is determined by the human labor and processing it takes to convert them into human goods. This includes the costs of energy used, machinery, processing, transportation — all the expenses involved, including a profit margin, to convert these raw resources into human goods.
The demands to return our country and the world to heretofore levels of human prosperity and wealth are all based upon the expectation of continued resource exploitation. This could only succeed provided that the natural resources sought after still exist – and that we don’t screw things up so badly that this remains possible.
Let me provide a simplistic example.
Let say that on our example planet, there were ten total people in a tribe. They existed by hunting and gathering from the natural environment the things they required to survive. They shared their efforts, whether by hunting, fishing or gathering. Everyone had their needs met. However over time, they decided that it would be easier to use a representation of their efforts to facilitate the exchange of goods among themselves.
They called this representation “money”. The money was printed on paper and they selected from themselves someone to print the money for the tribe. $100 in money was printed, each person was given $10 that they could exchange with anyone else for whatever they wanted or needed.
To establish the “value” of money, the economic unit of measurement was established (dollars). The price of any goods or items were set at multiples of $1.
The most industrious among them continued to work and hunt and fish and saved their money, sometimes selling a little of what they had to the other people in exchange for money.
Many of the others spent their money, buying instead the things they needed to survive. They bought food, clothing, housing, all the things that they needed. They found that they could buy what they used to make for themselves. As long as they had money, they could live a life of relative leisure.
It wasn’t long before those that spent their money didn’t have any left. And those few that didn’t spend their money wound up having all the money since they had also kept hunting and fishing. So these “rich” told the rest of the tribe to get to work and that they could still provide them what they needed in exchange for money. They had to make money by doing labor, making things, building things, planting things for which they would be paid. And so they did.
In the beginning, all the stuff in the environment was simply free for their taking. So they went off into the environment and took all the things that they needed and brought them back to be sold in exchange for more money.
They cut down the trees, they dug up the soil, they extracted the minerals, they fished the oceans, and they brought these things to the rich who then gave them some money for their efforts. The rich in turn wound up having all of these things – which they then resold back to other laborers, but the price was now higher. The laborers grumbled and complained, but that was the way it was and so they went along with it. They were told that they just needed to work some more and make some more money and then they could buy what now cost more.
It wasn’t long before the rich were in possession of almost all of the money and the material wealth that had been brought to them. They even bought the land that used to be free that contained the resources. The laborers had to constantly go out and find new sources of things that they could exchange for money so that they in turn could then buy what they needed themselves to survive. Sometimes, they stole resources from other tribes who had came to be, or kicked them off their land so that they could control the resources and exploit them howsoever they liked.
The rich decided that they could improve on this deal by making as much of the land as they could a private asset. So they bought the land and put their laborers to work on the land, farming and tilling and planting and digging up the soil for minerals. They even put their laborers to work on the oceans fishing and transporting. The rich also built factories and put some of the people to work inside of them, making things that they could then sell to everyone at a profit. They still controlled everything – and now they even controlled the land and the oceans.
Once again, all the money wound up in the hands of the rich and all of the people had to work somewhere (usually for the rich) for them to get those things they needed to survive. If they didn’t work – they didn’t survive.
Secretly, the man they had appointed to print the money discovered he could simply print more and make himself one of the rich without doing anything more then simply printing more money. Soon there was $1000 printed, then $10,000, then $1,000,000 and then it became uncountable. This inflated the money supply rather badly, causing inflation all over the planet. The cost of goods went up and up and the people demanded that they get paid more for the labor. This cycle continued for a long time always getting worse and worse. Nobody could fix it. What used to cost a penny now cost over $10. Everyone had to work more and more. And the rich always got richer and richer.
In time, most of the natural resources were being used up, so they explored the whole world and repeated the entire process over and over again as fast as they possibly could. All of the wealth always wound up in the hands of the rich and whoever controlled the land and the oceans. Populations grew and the natural resources of the planet declined. Pollution increased and became a major problem. Technology was invented and the people rejoiced, they perceived that salvation of their predicament had been found. Now they thought, they could stop working so hard and enjoy life more. So they did, but then they found themselves on the same treadmill of always having to work to pay for the things that they wanted and the things that they needed.
So they continued to work, every succeeding generations, non-stop, world wide. And the rich got richer. Eventually the world began to run out of natural resources to exploit and turn into the trinkets and toys that they sold to the laborers. New sources of minerals, energy and materials were created wherever possible, but even these began to run out. Nobody was allowed to just take things anymore from the natural world and use them for themselves. Nothing was free. Everything was now owned by the rich who had also created corporations to control the creation and flow of goods all the way around the world.
The old ways of life were long dead. And forgotten. Taxes were levied to help pay for the development of villages, towns and cities. All this money flowed to more rich people who were in charge of the people’s government. The laborers became dissatisfied with how things were turning out, and on occasion, changed their governments and accused the rich people of being dishonest. New people were appointed who then became rich and just as corrupt. This happened again and again. Eventually the people realized that they were completely chained now, in thought, deed, wealth and even in health. Everything depended now on what the rich would allow, what the rich would create and what the rich would suppress.
Huge wars were fought every century and sometimes more the once. It was all about money and who would control what, but the victors were in every instance the same. The rich got richer and the laborers remained laborers. It was very rare for a laborer to become rich, but faintly possible if they were either incredibly lucky or very, very clever. So some did, and became just as corrupt as all the other rich.
None of this went unnoticed by the laborers. They tried to create new forms of government, some which succeeded and some which didn’t. But they couldn’t get rid of the rich or the way in which the rich controlled the lives of everyone else through their ownership and control of everything else. They even tried to break free and form their own tribes with their own ways of living, but taking natural resources and not paying tribute to the rich was no longer allowed, so they got in trouble for trying and their efforts always failed.
As time went on, even the rich began to finally take notice that things were no longer as certain as they once were. They had lots and lots of laborers, too many in fact, and fewer and fewer natural resources to go around. The other really big problem is they had mismanaged their money. Many had more money then they knew what to do with, even though they lived lasciviously and squandered away huge sums. A few got caught doing bad things with their money and even the money that the laborers had entrusted them with. They began to fear the laborers who were angry, upset and disenfranchised by their various representatives.
A system of voting for representatives had been invented long before this, but over time, even this notion proved to be very easy to manipulate to ensure that only the chosen representative of the rich was put into a position of power, and even these individuals were almost always very rich themselves. The disparity between what the rich had, and what they controlled, and what they governed, over what the laborers had grew ever wider. This resulted in anger, dissent and even violence. Even the most obtuse laborer could perceive that something was very wrong with this type of existence and gross injustice.
So the rich hired private armies and appointed judges and executioners and engaged in bloody wars and left huge segments of the world’s population to simply die for lack of care and resources. They did this fairly often. The easiest way was to fabricate a perceived threat, it generally got most of the laborers to go along with the killing. And it was one way to mitigate their threat. However, it wasn’t enough because some of the laborers wised up to these tactics and refused to participate anymore. They also became increasingly educated to how history had worked and they advocated others join in their movements to boycott the desires of the rich. This worked a little, but really not enough and the rich became even richer.
Entertainment, distraction, fear mongering and propaganda were then perfected as techniques to distract the laborers from their condition. That worked – almost too well. Now, few laborers remembered how any of this had all happened. They ignored what was happening to their environment and the natural resources. They stopped objecting to the vagaries of the rich and the injustice of it all. They were generally quite satisfied with their lot in life as long as they had what they now deemed as their essentials, which was a labor job that they could perform in exchange for money with token raises in income, and plentiful of stores in which they could buy the things that they needed for their daily survival, and entertainment of all kinds which would distract their minds from their real condition as actual slaves.
The rich were now content too – they had finally done it. They now owned everything, controlled everything, produced everything, it was all under their thumbs. So they chose to continue to ignore the growing signs of resource collapse, pollution, environmental collapse and accelerating extinctions from global habitat destruction. Even the ice on the planet began to rapidly melt, threatening sea coasts and buildings all over the world. Nothing could be done however. They couldn’t be bothered to rectify any of it. In their minds, they imagined that they would innovate or exploit some heretofore resource or develop an idea or technology that would simply work around any of these pesky issues. But as time drew on, they slowly began to realize that an finite world with infinite consumption isn’t easily repaired or replaced no matter how much money they had.
This set of problems became known to the laborers too. They noticed because a lot of laborers were now dying from their effects or going broke. Many tried to immigrate to places where there were still resources and work as laborers to be had. They thought that if they could just relocate, they’d be ok. In time, even this didn’t work out. Places became very crowded and very violent as competition for space and resources grew. Some areas had to be completely abandoned. New areas had to be found to put all of the people and bring in all the things that they needed.
Now, there were many, many different kinds of tribes and many, many different kinds of governments, all with many different rich people controlling them. None of them could agree on much, except that something drastic needed to be done. So they tried to get together, again and again and talk about it, but these efforts almost always failed. And then it was too late – gigantic cracks in the environmental survival systems of the planet were showing up all over the place. More and more people died. More and more of the planet was getting destroyed and became uninhabitable. Much of it was already used up and the technology “fixes” they thought to finally try just kept making things worse as they used up more resources and contributed to things like climate change and resource collapse. The level of pollution they had generated was truly monumental now and encompassed the air, soil, water, land and even outer space.
So the rich tried again, but always with the same agenda. They had to remain in control – and remain rich. They intended to make the laborers pay for it all. And the status-quo of how things were done, and who got what, and where it came from also had to remain the same. And so they kept making the problems worse and worse, totally incapable of changing anything.
In the end, the laborers had to do for themselves what was never going to be done for them by the rich. They had to abandon the rich altogether and stop being their laborers. At first, this was always illegal, but as time wore on, more and more joined in this resistance. Many died, or got sick, or lost everything, but they were hardly any worse off then before. The rich panicked at this massive rebellion and slaughtered as many as they could, but all of the killing, the suppression, the imprisonments and the abuse didn’t stop the laborers this time. They had had enough and so they kept resisting.
But this isn’t a story with a happy ending. By now, the climate had changed so drastically that survival for everyone, even the rich became difficult. The rich could still buy what they needed when it could still be found, but the laborers couldn’t. Everything that they needed became very, very expensive. The rich had to hire private armies to protect themselves and their wealth. They were mostly ignored as survival became increasingly difficult and many disappeared into bunkers and hidden locations, afraid to come out. Over time, billions of people died out, with some of the rich dying too. But in the end, it was just a few rich people who still had the means to survive on a wrecked planet that remained.
Nobody knows what become of them. Only the laborers were paying attention at this point, correctly pointing out all of the faults and documenting the real history of what had happened. They were the ones who had really cared all along, so they took the time to do a thankless job but they did it anyway. When they died, so did the record keeping.
Although this is just a story – it is also the history of our planet and the people of the Earth. It is also the likely outcome of the next 100 years or so.