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The Intangible Wealth of Nations

Judging from this post by Arnold Kling, and this summary by Ron Bailey, this new book from the World Bank makes a point that’s vital and all but completely overlooked, even by the very best economists.  (The point is very much a Julian Simon one.)

Capital is mostly a process; not a stock of stuff.  Capital largely is a process of peaceful cooperation; a division of labor ever-deepened by market signals that contain more information than noise; an openness to economic dynamism; a culture of surpressing envy and applauding (or at least tolerating) honest success; a widespread acceptance of the difference between mine and thine, and an abhorence of those who refuse to accept this distinction; an acceptance, at least in practical affairs, of science, logic, and reason and a rejection in these affairs of faith, mysticism, and tradition-for-the-sake-of-tradition.

These intangibles go way beyond inventories, machines, and even precise bits of technical know-how.  They are the bedrock of civilization and prosperity.


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