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Winning the War for Wealth

Winning the War for Wealth

(From time to time, I’m motivated to write more broadly on issues that matter to me. This is one such blog entry. As a board member of the tax-advantaged humanitarian organization, Guitars for Vets, I have a personal interest in how increasing the world’s wealth could benefit such humanitarian organizations, and while I may not be right all the time, I hope my perspective helps make you think more carefully about creating and using wealth wisely.)

“The leaders of thought and of action grope their way forward to a new life, realizing, sometimes dimly, sometimes clear-sightedly, that the life of material gain, whether for a nation or an individual, is of value only as a foundation, only as there is added to it uplift that comes from devotion to loftier ideals.” 

Teddy Roosevelt, ‘The Man in the Arena,’ a speech delivered at the Sorbonne, Paris, France, April 23 1910

The centennial of the start of World War I and President Teddy Roosevelt’s speech at the Sorbonne triggered me to think deeply about the popular — almost fashionable — criticism of wealth. While it’s heartening that some fabulously wealthy individuals such as Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet have risen to the nobility of their fortune and give generously to resolution of the great ills in the world, it troubles me that the culture of today has blurred the line between wealth and greed, and that influential individuals and organizations spend much of their effort demonizing the creation of the wealth necessary to solve the issues that face us in the early 21st Century. Even more tragic is the fact that so many of today’s political and popular leaders, sometimes possessed of great financial resources themselves, encourage the sort of social dependency that, while keeping them in power, creates a society incapable of rising to the demands of productivity, let alone wealth.

Here’s a simple question: are you wealthy?

Being wealthy means lots of things, but for today, let’s say that being wealthy means you don’t have to work for a living. That is, you receive an income that will continue without your having to put any effort into producing it, which frees you to pursue your chosen work without the demands of earning a living.

So, are you wealthy?

By that definition, not many of us would say “yes.” This definition excludes folks on government assistance, if only because there is effort involved in staying qualified for such assistance AND if your total income reaches a certain level the assistance ends.

So…be honest: are you wealthy?

I’m not. So here’s a follow-up question: would you like to be wealthy? I would.

Unfortunately, the somewhat Puritanical baggage of frugality we Westerners carry, added to the Industrial Age mentality of “working for a living,” has put America, one of the world’s richest nations, in an economic snarl. That is, we are taught that work is good, and while we gripe about working for “the man” and sometimes resent entrepreneurs for the amazing riches they produce, not many of us know how to create — or keep — real wealth.

A couple of my family members have just begun the “financial planning” process. You can save and invest 10% of everything your earn for a lifetime and become somewhat financially independent; this is the straightforward ethos most financial planners teach and it can work quite well, but it’s not wealth by our definition here since, for much of the time, you’re still working for a living.

Most of us who work for a living know about Tax Freedom Day and how much of what we earn (about 30%) never reaches our own pockets. It seems that America is a place where government regulations dis-incentivize wealth; why would the government want us to become wealthy, especially by the definition we’re using here? That is, a taxpayer who doesn’t have to produce income doesn’t pay taxes, which is “bad” for the government, right? But let me ask: If I gave you a 30% raise right now on the condition you would spend all of it on humanitarian causes, would you give that money to the government to spend as it sees fit (yes: government is a humanitarian cause), or to a humanitarian organization closer to home? Maybe a church or a favorite charity or a school? I’m guessing, if you had the freedom to do so, you would use your money more wisely than the government would.

Now think about this…

If the government really wanted our help, it would help us all become wealthy, right? As all of our incomes rise toward true wealth, tax revenue to the government would also rise…why doesn’t the government get that? I’d rather earn $1,000,000 per year than $100,000, wouldn’t you? So what if the government gets $300,000 or even $400,000 of my million; they only got $30,000 of my $100,000! If I get wealthy, the government also increases its revenue by ten times (or more), just as I have. Why wouldn’t government want THAT?

Why wouldn’t YOU want that?

Oh…you DO want that? Me too.

But there you and I are, working for a living instead of building true wealth.

What’s holding us back?

Actually, nothing.

There are a lot of excuses for not producing true wealth. Politicians have their list; your employer has a list; even you and I have our lists of reasons why we aren’t producing true wealth. None of them are valid. Really.

Other than the excuses we invent or the excuses others give us, there’s no reason at all why the next wealth-producing success story shouldn’t be YOURS. You and I and many others have spent a lot of time doing what we “should” to earn a living. In fact, we’ve been at it for so long that we sometimes forget that wealth is available to anyone who wants it. Wanting wealth and actually achieving it are two different things, and it’s a sad fact of the human condition that we have not yet evolved to be able to build wealth consistently. Wouldn’t wealth building be a worthwhile humanitarian effort? And doesn’t a successful humanitarian effort require resources…wealth?

It’s fashionable these days to demonize corporations, especially when they appear to be wealthy and appear uninterested in humanitarian effort. Corporations that serve humanity’s need for heat and light through exploitation of natural resources, or serve the world’s need for weaponry, or that help enable financial leverage or bring economical consumer goods to many people tend to bear the heaviest of attacks for their perceived greed and indifference to humanitarian causes. But those who do the demonizing tell a one-sided story that serves only their purpose by failing to inform us of the useful structure a corporation provides for a business — a structure that can outlive those who participate in it today in service of its longer-term business goals, that can assume both responsibility and liability for its larger needs, that can be a social force in a community through offering jobs and humanitarian programs that help raise the general standard of living around it, long after those running the business today have retired.

The biggest terrorist in the war on wealth is fear of greed. We are beaten over the head with fear of greed regularly, especially in the political battleground of ideas. Most wealthy individuals and wealthy corporation are NOT greedy. In fact, history shows quite the opposite: most wealthy individuals and corporations are quite philanthropic. There are even anti-greed laws that force the fortunes of the wealthy to be redistributed to humanitarian causes a little bit at a time after the wealthy individuals die. Smart corporations manage their wealth wisely, just as smart individuals do, and the best of both make certain that their wealth is used in service of some greater humanitarian good.

It’s not greedy to want to be wealthy. Why? Because wealth is NOT a “zero-sum game.” If wealth was truly finite, how can we explain the Internet boom of the 1990s or the oil boom of early 20th Century or the vast growth of wealthy individuals and businesses that has taken place since the start of the Industrial Age? Every one of the wealth-creating economic expansions in the world has helped raise the standards of living of everyone around it! That fact negates the zero-sum thinking about wealth. True wealth is created, not by printing more money, but by creating something so desired by so many of the rest of us that we will figure out how to exchange some of our resources for it. Most of the time, that exchange is made using money; sometimes the exchange is for goods or services of the same value; more recently there have started to be virtual forms of exchange such as Bit Coin. The method of exchange doesn’t matter so much as our ability to offer something of value in that exchange. It’s a misunderstanding of wealth to think that it is limited by how much money exists in the world, and that for me to be wealthier demands that someone else become poorer.

Here’s an example to help clarify how this works.

You know that all the smart electronic gadgets we use have miniature computers inside them. These computers physically reside on small bits of stuff which are called “chips” in the industry. You may have heard of companies like Intel, Broadcom and Qualcomm — these companies deign and build the chips (and the computers on them) that make all our smart phones, tablets and computers work. These chips are in toasters and automobiles and airplanes, too. We all seem to want stuff that needs computer chips these days, so the companies that make them have grown bigger to provide all of us with the smart gadgets and ultra-efficient devices we think we need. As more an more of us demand them, computer chips have become more and more valuable.

The computer-chip companies employ a lot of us who don’t mind working for a living — exchanging our time for the resources we need to exchange for food, a place to live, transportation, etc — to make the smart products that so many of us want. And do we want them? We sure do. A family that chooses to equip its elementary-school-age kids with smart phones and tablet computers and still manages to have the resources for food and shelter is Exhibit A of the wealth creation cycle. Consumer materialism fuels corporate wealth. It also helps corporations keep prices competitive, be more honest about their profits, treat their workers fairly and be good community citizens. Take a good look at the economic growth in the emerging industrial nations of the world over the last couple of decades: in them, poverty is on the decline, individual (versus collective) determinism is on the rise. Why? For one reason, because smart corporations realized that building factories to make computer chips in developing nations was a smart idea. Our developing nations’ brothers and sisters have benefited from materialism, and have now begun to build wealth of their own on their own. There is a definite economic pattern of growth to this process, and that pattern has repeated itself over and over throughout the development of the modern world.

With me so far?

Businesses — corporations —  like people, have to provision themselves with supplies, build factories to make their products, provide resources to the workers who make the stuff, pay taxes — somewhat like you and I do. They must also make sure the world knows about their products, fix things that go wrong with their products, keep their buildings and equipment in good repair — again, something like you and I must do. In this sense, corporations are a lot like people, and face similar choices about things like wealth and where to shop for the most economical supplies to do what they do. Corporations also face the same wealth terrorists, such as fear of greed. In short, a corporation, like a person or a family, must concern itself with whether to “work for a living” or “be wealthy.” Corporations that decide to just “work for a living” don’t concern themselves so much with continuing to deliver something of value over the long term; corporations that truly care about making sure they deliver the best possible value over the long term in their computer chips — or whatever their products may be — tend to thrive, since they attract more and more happy customers willing to exchange their resources for stuff that uses computer chips etc etc etc.

Hang in there — it’s about to get really good…but we must deal with greed before going on.

One person can get very lucky and have a great, valuable idea that produces a lot of wealth in a hurry without much apparent effort. The Internet taught us about that. Another person can have a great, valuable idea that takes many years’ hard work before it ever produces an income, let alone true wealth. Whether you choose to go it alone or build a long-term business, the path to wealth is still open to you. The only difference is whether you fly solo or create a structure that includes many others with you on the road to wealth.

If you choose to build a business, you may find yourself taking a much longer view of its sustainability. Sometimes this long view can be misperceived as being greedy. We all know it takes a lot of “money in the bank” to sustain just one person after retirement; a company hopes it will never “retire” so it must plan (and save some of its earnings) for its future if it hopes to survive over time. (Caveat here for the sort of business fads that often surround new industries such as some of the losers in the Internet boom of the 1990s — we’re not talking about billionaires with no real product whose start-up website was launched explicitly to be purchased by Google or Amazon, or that raised millions only to close up shop within a few months or years.) Whether it’s a person or a corporation working on wealth the objective is still the same: being wealthy means you — or your corporation — no longer have to work to earn a living.

Most wealthy corporations, of course, continue to operate rather than closing up shop, although I’m quite certain there have been times when Amazon or Google or Intel or Qualcomm could have decided: “We’ve done about enough. Let’s just shut the doors and live on the wealth we’ve created.” Of course, they didn’t do that (or haven’t yet) because there’s a fundamental secret about creating wealth that’s not always obvious: creating wealth is fun, and people like having fun!

No one starts a business because they hate doing the work. People who create wealth enjoy doing it, whether they are investors, businesspeople, entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, writers…any activity that leaves a signature of wealth will have folks engaged in the work who are truly having fun.

It’s challenging to do the work of producing wealth, yes. It can be excruciating. But those who keep at it do so because they really enjoy it — because it is fun to create, make or produce stuff that other people delight in acquiring and using. The danger is that when fun become fanaticism, good wealth can become greed. It’s easier to be selfish and greedy than to use one’s moral fiber to live Teddy Roosevelt’s exhortation and use wealth only as a foundation on which to build for the greater good.

Building a corporation through growth benefits everyone engaged in the business of the company: it’s employers, suppliers, customers — everyone. Meeting new demands in the computer chip industry has been a meteoric process, and you can bet the creatives engaged in it are having the time of their lives. The challenge in growing a company is to keep everyone in the business just as fired-up about what they do as the first few folks were when the business was launched. It’s a tough challenge.

It’s true that most of us work for a living because we must, and that the intrinsic rewards in work that is fun or challenging aren’t always “realistic” when we choose the occupation that will support us and our families. We’re taught to make sacrifices, to be frugal, to hang in there and things will gradually get better if we are patient and keep sucking up to the man. Doesn’t have to be that way, but that’s the best we’ve collectively got right now. If we admit this low standard of career, it’s no surprise that we’ve also given ample space for fear of greed to work alongside us in our less-than-wonderful job. “Saving for retirement” becomes the goal rather than wealth and a lifetime of productive and useful work. We begin to think of ourselves as a small cog in some giant machine that rules our destiny, rather than as a small but vital force for good. We become slaves to some other destiny, rather than the one that burns inside us, even if feebly, and, like a slave, we begin to feel consumed by the master that owns us and begin to forget our freedom to chose the work we love and want.

This choice of slavery to a job works against us, opening space for criticism of “the man” and the work itself, lowering our naturally productive spirit, shutting out the potential for wealth. In this state, it’s easier to believe the lies told about wealth, easier to fear the wealth traitor, greed, easier to take a handout than to offer one, easier to give up a little more freedom every day than to work harder for a way to true self-sustainability. Sadly, slavery to one’s job has become the definition of self-reliance in many ways. How far such a person has fallen from the ideas Teddy Roosevelt spoke about in his brave speech to the Sorbonne!

America, Roosevelt said, was built by intrepid and hardy folks who weren’t afraid of the effort required to tame a wild and unknown continent. America was brave enough to establish for itself an experimental form of government, and clear-sighted enough to understand the pitfalls of such an experiment. America grew to become a world power by being brave and clear-sighted on the world stage, and led many other nations to righteous victories in the first half of the 20th Century. Leaders in business, government and humanitarian causes did these things because they wanted to — because they were glad to accept the challenges and took righteous pleasure in the solutions. America beckoned the world to its doorstep, and those of a similar mind came to America and thrived. In many ways, Roosevelt laid out the welcome mat for the immigrants that helped sustain America’s Industrial Age midlife. The midlife crisis of the last half of America’s 20th Century has not yet resulted in a new American zeal.

America, and much of the developed world, now finds itself in something of a morass of morality regarding humanity’s wealth. The best example of this may be the Puritanical expectation that a humanitarian cause ought to be run on a shoestring because this means most of the resources are spent on the actual cause itself.  Unlike the presumed “greedy” corporation, it’s said that humanitarian leaders ought to expect to work for next to nothing because it’s a measure of the humanitarian organization’s success and sincerity that meager salaries somehow indicate that much more good is being done. When a struggling for-profit corporation’s chief executive offers to work for a dollar a year to turn things around, and money isn’t the object because such an executive is usually already wealthy, don’t we all admire his or her sincerity? In truth, it’s not immoral to be wealthy, and whether you lead a humanitarian or for-profit organization, it’s no more noble to work for a dollar or hundreds of thousands of them, provided what you do is much needed by humanity. Strangely, our popular morality about wealth is that it’s OK to earn millions of dollars as CEO serving the materialistic needs of the consumers of computer chips, but it’s greedy and wrong to earn millions of dollars as CEO of a humanitarian organization that educates the world about how to relieve symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Isn’t that just exactly backwards? When this moral question about wealth is resolved, perhaps America’s midlife crisis will be, too.

This is where a discussion of sustainability become meaningful. America’s ability to declare war on unrighteousness was successful in a couple of instances: World Wars I and II. It can be argued that the Cold War was also righteous and its end was a victory of sorts. But America has lost every domestic humanitarian war it has declared — as well as most of the foreign ones since World War II — because of its clear lack of moral authority to wage them. Prohibition is a good example, so is the War on Drugs. Both of these “wars” increased crime and violence as illicit industries to supply the contraband substances grew and prospered. The end of Prohibition wasn’t the end of gang violence in America, and the end of the War on Drugs won’t be either. The point is that Americans have collectively ceded their power of finding and implementing solutions to a government that wasn’t designed to do that. America’s government was designed to facilitate, not sustain. American ingenuity has always been the sustainer of America, and when Americans take back their problems from their government, I believe America will find its way through its midlife crisis. I look for a time when humanitarian organizations offer more cost-effective programs than those offered by the government — programs that don’t require the government’s involvement to implement nor operate.

We’re coming close to the end of this discussion. Hang in there.

Along the way to reliance on government for solutions, Americans have agreed to confiscatory rates of taxation to support the government’s programs. What began as a wartime zeal for righteous action has morphed into a mistaken assumption that government can that it could “run like a business.” Being a government, however, and having no marketable product or service to offer, the government’s only source of revenue (taxes) was not tied in any meaningful way to the wants of the people it served, which means government is fundamentally unable to operate with anything close to businesslike efficiency. There’s no denying that many Americans feel strongly about the success of government programs and would gladly contribute 30% or more of their earnings to sustain them, but the tit for tat of just giving money to the government and hoping that it is used well isn’t as directly understandable for most of us as giving money to a supermarket to buy food. Americans have come to believe that their government is not greedy, not wealthy, and able to make better use of the tax revenue taken from Americans than Americans can themselves. There is, thankfully, a finite amount of tax revenue that can be claimed by the government, but some Americans have come to believe mistakenly that this means there is only a finite amount of money, and that their share of that money it is shrinking. This thought fallacy ignores the economic fact of our example: the worldwide phenomenal demand for computer chips is causing people worldwide to figure out how to exchange more of their resources for stuff that uses computer chips. A government can strike no such bargain with its citizens.

A sustainable business must continue to offer products or services its patrons want, patrons who are willing to exchange something of value for them. Most American government programs that offer products or services do so with no expectation of exchange. Money and resources are given to other nations without expectation of receiving services of products of similar value in exchange; funds are provided to Americans who need money to buy food with no expectation of exchange; health care is given at low or no cost to those from which there can be no realistic expectation of exchange. Americans collectively believe this is noble, and that by providing “assistance” as the government deems fit, those who receive the assistance will somehow hasten their ability to make some meaningful contribution to America. This is a Ponzi scheme of the first order. Does anyone believe that the contributions they make to “Social Security” will be enough to sustain them after they have stopped working for a living? The Social Security program was never designed to be that way. Just as Prohibition and the War on Drugs have been expensive and miserable failures of government’s attempt at righteous action, so will the War on Poverty (or, we might say, the War on Wealth) also be a miserable failure. A sustainable business does not cede its decision making to the government — we know from the social experiments of the early 20th Century how disastrous that can be — and a government that expects people will continue to give an ever-growing part of their earnings to government programs over which they have no control and from which their receive little benefit is a government destined for the ash heap of history. This is the state of America’s midlife crisis today.

Americans’ innate ability to conquer the unknown territory is still serving America. America is incubating an incredible number of humanitarian organizations and for-profit humanitarian businesses. Why? Because people have begun to learn that they can build a business to deliver humanitarian services more efficiently than America’s government can. The Red Cross is an historic shining example of this fact, and many other humanitarian organizations are doing at the grass roots level what the Red Cross has done on the world stage: convincing those with wealth that the government isn’t the only avenue to solving the world’s problems. Was it the American government’s Center for Disease Control who came up with an effective Ebola vaccine? No: it was the American government’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that stood in the way of human testing for that vaccine. Granted, much of the government research spawned during wartime has resulted in consumer products of great value, but those products are manufactured and sold by private business, not the government which, until the last few years, has wisely decided to stay out of the way of commerce and free trade. Many of those wartime products and services have been adapted to humanitarian causes. Radar, for example, allows thousands of airplanes to traverse the skies every day without colliding, even though the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) operates this program on outdated computer equipment. A business or humanitarian organization offering the same service could perhaps be run more efficiently and on more modern equipment, and could potentially work directly with airlines to increase cooperation and improve safety at a lower cost than the government program. Just because something was invented in service of the government does not mean the government is best able to operate or regulate that service for its citizens.

Certainly those governing America must be worried about the potential for American businesses to do better with humanitarian programs than the government, since success of a private humanitarian organization in a government-dominated sector means incremental loss of government control. Power corrupts, often in ways that appear benign, and releasing government control of a poorly-functioning program is a difficult process. Government officials, both those elected and those in the career bureaucracy, have done an excellent job of growing their power and influence on many humanitarian sectors over the last hundred years or so. They have done this at the expense of those of us who pay taxes — who work for a living — without any realistic pressure being exerted to keep their programs running within, say, the restrictions that public opinion places on “non-profit” organizations serving in the same ways. Consider the humanitarian field of education, where the “for-profit university” has become a whipping post for government’s failure to provide effective education for the masses. It doesn’t seem to matter than some for-profit universities actually achieve results far superior to the government-run universities; all that’s needed is one “bad” for-profit school and public opinion can be turned against time-tested positive results in favor of a government status quo that isn’t sustainable.

What does it mean to be truly sustainable?

A program is sustainable when it funds itself. For example, a farmer raising crops for sale has a sustainable program. Yes, the farmer is at risk for bad weather that could result in a poor harvest, but the same farmer could also have a bumper crop and lay aside funds to help sustain the farm during years of poor harvest. That’s a sustainable model…unless a catastrophe strikes. The farmer might collaborate with other farmers to help mitigate the catastrophe, but this is where the sustainable model falls apart thanks to well-meaning progressive idealism. In today’s America, the bigger the collaborative, the more pull it has with the government to send a bailout. Sadly, this means that today’s family farm gets less help than the corporate farming collaborative, which can easily purchase failing family farms at a discount (a “bailout” from the large collaborative to the small family farmer), and which is sometimes paid by the government NOT to produce anything on its land…and we have an example of how government works to turn a self-sustaining program into one that needs government’s assistance and tolerates government control in order to survive.

Humanitarian programs don’t depend on farmers or chip manufacturers so what’s the problem? The government can continue to fund its humanitarian programs as long as the government continues to tax us, right? Why isn’t the American model of government-funded humanitarian programs sustainable?

First, because our American government works hard to put the brakes on creation of wealth. That is, from every man and woman who must work for a living, the government is able to take taxes. (If you no longer need to have an income, there is no income tax…but the government still has plenty of other ways to get at your wealth — that’s a subject for another blog.) If you become wealthy, you’re worth less to the government as a source of tax revenue, therefore, the government has a big reason to keep you working for the man, in spite of the logic about how the government would get more in taxes if we all had larger incomes.

Next, because a government program is not answerable to any realistic authority for its success. Do I need to mention Prohibition or the War on Drugs? Prohibition fell under its own weight, and the War on Drugs will, too. Other examples? Privately-funded primary and secondary schools tend to produce better students, measured in terms of college aptitude and eventual productivity, than government schools. A private school that wasn’t able to get any students ready for college would probably not last long, but government schools have been providing less-than-useful education for decades with impunity and at great cost, relative to private school costs. Customers of a computer chip maker with an inferior product quickly learn that fact and find another supplier, but government schools don’t have to answer to the need for consumer choice provided most of their consumers (parents of the kids who attend the government schools) aren’t wealthy enough to have that choice.

Finally, because the model for government’s humanitarian programs IS a zero-sum game. At some point, even if government were to tax us at 100% of our earnings and provide all the stuff all of us need — food, shelter, smart phones…everything — there would still be a need in government for more revenue. Government already recognizes this and taxes goods and services arriving in America from other countries in the form of tariffs, or levies sales and excise taxes on stuff we consume, such as gasoline. The point is that, at some future date when government owns everything and takes everything we earn, there won’t be anything left to increase the amount government can spend on anything. That’s not sustainable. Period. End of story.

No one wants to get to that point, but so far no one has been brave enough to say so, or to say “Stop!” before it’s too late. And it’s getting very late. Every time a new billionaire appears, what does government attempt to do? Buy his or her influence through offering promises in exchange for campaign contributions. True, there have been some notable ways that the government has been forced to cede power back to private industry, such as the private launch programs that are now offering more cost-effective portals to space than those available via the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and we can hope that this trend continues since it appears to be sustainable. But there are many more ways that government is able to purchase influence with the largest corporate wealth creators: government contracts for military equipment or humanitarian assistance (think “military/industrial complex” or “Affordable Care Act/Obama Care”); bailouts for the banking and insurance industries (think “too big to fail”). Sadly, there are now several generations of voters who believe that government will provide for their humanitarian needs, starting with the Baby Boomers who should have known better and ending with the entitled Millennials who one would think ought to know better.

Like me, many of us are finding that we no longer have the choices we used to have. For example, my income isn’t high enough to escape the Obama Care subsidy, so I must deal with social service agency health care for my kids (we call it Medi-Cal here in California), which restricts my choices of heath care to providers that, in some cases, have social media warnings posted online instead of reviews. I understand that Obama Care isn’t sustainable, but why don’t more voters get that fact, too? If a chip maker never got a favorable review it could only hope to sustain operations if there were no other competing chip makers consumers could choose…and so we have the model for today’s national health insurance collaborative.

I believe the answer to this downward spiral, and the reason I’ve spent so much time on this blog, is wealth. There is simply no reason to fear wealth, stand in opposition to its creation, legislate it out of existence or demonize those who create it. None of that serves the world. As we have seen, wealth is necessary for humanitarian programs since its excess can be given to sustain them. Wealth is the enabler of the most fulfilling, productive work, since it frees workers to pursue their most rewarding endeavors without the pressure of earning a living. Wealth gives those who have it incredible influence, and, if you are a wanna-be wealthy person like me, wouldn’t you want a righteous, wealthy mentor encouraging you instead of a just-over-broke government handout?

The American idea of wealth isn’t unique in the world. There are wealth-builders worldwide. Muhammad Yunnus has demonstrated the potential for social entrepreneurism in ways that ought to make governments quake in their boots, or at least sit up and take notice. The sustainable ideas Yunnus’ Grammeen Bank has funded are creating wealth in developing nations. This is BIG. Anyone interested in creating wealth would do well to study just some of the projects in which Grammeen participates. A short discussion of how Grammeen works can be found here.

It’s time to take action. America is ready to move beyond its midlife crisis. Wealth-building leadership is needed in government, at home, in business, in humanitarian organizations. The mistaken notion that wealth equals greed must morph into the goal of a rewarding life of purposeful achievement animated by those “loftier ideals” Roosevelt claimed for Americans, but which are truly the provenance of the entire world.

Will you take up arms to help win the war for wealth? I hope you will.