Note 69: Demand for consumption is satisfied not from hoards
of accumulated wealth, but from the stream of current production. Broadly
speaking there can be no accumulation of wealth in the sense of saving
up wealth from generation to generation. Imagine a man's satisfying his
demand for eggs from the accumulated stores of his ancestors! Yet eggs
do not differ in this respect from other forms of wealth, except that some
other forms will keep a little longer, and some not so long.
The notion that a saving instinct must be aroused before
the great and more lasting forms of wealth can be brought forth is a mistake.
Houses and locomotives, for example, are built not because of any desire
to accumulate wealth, but because we need houses to live in and locomotives
to transport us and our goods. It is not the saving, but the serving,
instinct that induces the production of these things; the same instinct
that induces the production of a loaf of bread.
Artificial things do not save. No sooner are the processes
of production from land complete than the products are on their way back
to the land. If man does not return them by means of consumption, then
through decay they return themselves. Mankind as a whole lives
literally from hand to mouth. What is demanded for consumption in the present must
be produced by the labor of the present. From current production, and from
that alone, can current consumption be satisfied.
"Accumulated wealth" is, in fact, not wealth at
all in any great degree. It is merely titles to wealth yet to be produced.
A share in a mining company, for example, is but a certificate that the
owner is legally entitled to a proportion of the wealth to be produced
in the future from a certain mine.
Titles to future wealth may be both morally and legally
valid. This is so when they represent past labor or its products loaned
in free contract for future labor or its products; for example, a contract
for the delivery of goods of any kind today to be paid for next week or
next month, or next year, or in ten years, or later.
They may be legally but not morally valid. This is so when
they represent the product of a franchise (whether paid for in labor or
not) to exact tribute from future labor; for example, a franchise to confiscate
a man's labor through ownership of his body, as in slavery, or a franchise
to confiscate the products of labor in general through ownership of land.
Or they may be both legally and morally invalid, as when
they are obtained by illegal force or fraud from the rightful owner. ... read the book