In America there was once a day when “nature provide[d] so well for human industry that there is no class of theoretical speculators.” It was a time when [p]olitics occupie[d] only a small corner of the [social] canvas.” Media was not preoccupied with keeping readers angry and afraid. No one “…devote[d] as much space to matters… affecting government as to the price of cotton. What space remains is monopolized by discussions of local interest, which feed public curiosity without in any way causing social turmoil.”
These were the observations of Alexis de Tocqueville, writing to his father about America on June 3, 1831.
Say no to inequality and yes to a thriving middle class
This was not a time of “wealth inequality.” Indeed, de Tocqueville was amazed by absence of an aristocracy idled to their own indulgence. This is what he meant by “theoretical speculators.” Everyone worked because wealth was “the common lure” and “a thousand roads lead to it.” I am not naïve about this history; the descendants of slaves and Native Americans will likely have a very different view. But I am convinced there is a lesson for us:
Wealth is created in one way, and one way only: People take the raw materials of the earth and make useful things.
Imagine a population is taking the raw materials of the earth and making useful things. The raw materials are not imported. They have them in abundance. There will be another population in another place where those raw materials are scarce. But that population will have an abundance of other raw materials otherwise scarce among our first population. When both populations are making useful things from raw materials they have in abundance – and then sell those things into the scarcities of other populations, three things are true:
- All populations are creating wealth.
- Wealth naturally dissipates among these populations, creating a “middle class.”
- The governments of these populations have sufficient revenue to secure public goods.
Say no to outrage and yes to the creation of wealth
When we realize what wealth is, and how it is created, we will again have a stake in preserving it. This does not mean everyone hoards what they acquire. When we escape the clutches of media which merely want to keep us angry and afraid of the “Other” we can quickly discover that we share a common sense of what is best for our communities. There are things we do better together. But “we” does not – nor should not – reflexively mean government. But sometimes it does.
The Digital Liberties Amendment is about securing our ability to enjoy – and to share – the wealth we create. We have endured 50 years of a monetary system exploited to the profit of a few, and as a result the demonization of the “Other.” There is a better way. But we must first take back control not just of the “money supply” – but the very idea of what money is.
Because our heritage is one of a people devoid of theoretical speculators – where everyone works, creates wealth, and enjoys its fruits – our future is one of peace and prosperity. If we will just seize the moment to secure that peace and prosperity.