True wealth

I’ve been meaning to write about National Wealth: What is Missing, Why it Matters edited by Cameron Hepburn and Kirk Hamilton. This volume (in which I have a chapter, The Political Economy of National Statistics) looks at different types of wealth from a number of perspectives. The opening set of chapters look at the link between wealth and sustainability (measurement of assets being essential to take the future into account) and the link between wealth and well-being, as well as my paper looking at how one might move from a GDP/income flow to a wealth measurement standard. Part two covers the historical perspective on wealth. Part 3 looks in more detail at the measurement of specific components of wealth, and part 4 at sustainability.

As the editors write, “Policies that create wealth go beyond increasing output; they involve investments today for returns in the future … A focus on wealth generation … shifts policy away from supporting immediate consumption.” There are plenty of ideas and an increasing amount of data making it possible to start accounting for wealth, and specifically the change in real wealth. The challenge is the policy challenge of getting consensus about the need to change the focus.

With my co-author Benjamin Mitra-Kahn, we suggested how to go about this as our entry for the inaugural Indigo Prize, which we were honoured to win jointly with Jonathan Haskel and his colleagues. Their ideas for improving GDP are excellent; but Ben and I still think priority needs to be given to the sustainability-enhancing potential of a wealth focus rather than an amended GDP focus. Wealth and sustainability are “joined at the hip,” as National Wealth puts it.


One thought on “True wealth

  1. According to classical authors (if I interpret them well):
    Capital is not a thing, it is a relation: this realtion allows the posessor of capital to increase it by getting free the part of the product generated (and finally realized in the market, which is the task of capitalists) by working society (by labour force) which is only paid with a part of this product for its survival and reproduction. For the purpose above it is not decisive that capital be tangible or intangible.
    Intangible capital can be also a rent, a non earned income, whichs comes from elsewhere, from other activities, which have to pay for a monopoly good o service they need.

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