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Money is not wealth

I recently read an interesting article by Paul Graham on how to make wealth. He advocates working really, really hard in a start-up for a few years and (maybe) getting a huge pay-off from the effort (or ending up with nothing, if the venture, like ever so many start-ups, fails).

However, an interesting point he makes is the distinction between wealth and money. Wealth is what we are really after, while money is just the exchange medium for wealth we use in today's society. All the money of the world would be of no use to you if you were stranded on a desert island with nothing to buy. Similar, if you had a machine (or surabi cow) that could create anything you desired, you would have no need for money.

Graham writes:

Until recently even governments sometimes didn't grasp the distinction between money and wealth. Adam Smith (Wealth of Nations) mentions several that tried to preserve their "wealth" by forbidding the export of gold or silver. But having more of the medium of exchange would not make a country richer; if you have more money chasing the same amount of material wealth, the only result is higher prices.

Similarly, on a smaller scale, many people chase after money, when what they actually desire is wealth. Wealth is whatever someone values and therefore wants to acquire.

Graham falls into the same trap that ensnares practically everyone. He reasons:

Create things that people desire => make money => buy things you desire => objective accomplished.

In reality the following happens:

... buy things you desire => desire more => buy more => desire more => buy more => never become truly satisfied

The spiritual solution is given in BG 2.70: instead of trying to create more and more wealth we should practice minimizing your desires (and since annihilating desire is impossible, replacing it with a higher taste - BG 2.59). That way, even if we don't have the luck (good karma) to be part of a successful start-up, we'll still be supremely wealthy. We'll be able to buy all the things you want, even with a modest income, because we'll desire less stuff than the common manipulated-by-marketing consumer. Even better, we'll also will gain permanent, spiritual wealth.

All material wealth is eventually destroyed by the effects of time. However, spiritual advancement lasts forever.

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