: : If you are talking in purely physical terms, then 'wealth' (i.e. mineral and vegetable resource) has remained roughly constant since humanity's start;
: Its not wealth then, its just material.
: Wealth is "objects of human desire" (websters, 1913) - in other words its a broad philosophical term describing the sum of the usefulness of an item (or intangible) to a person or persons.
Correct. So can you have 'wealth' without material?
'Wealth' is based ultimately on physical objects and the effects that possession of them has; the warmth from a coal fire, the satisfaction of being fed. Although wealth is an intangible, it rests on tangibles.
What use is gold if you have no food?
: : To speak in terms of 'wealth creation' is merely describing the 'talking up' of value; it's not the physical act of creating more resources; which is impossible in a closed system like Earth.
: Its the act of transforming something which people do not find useful (tonnes of iron ore and coal) into something they do find use for (iron, then cars etc etc etc). That process is wealth creation.
: : merely that you've converted the existing arrangement to suit your own needs more.
: Here's a few tonnes of random material from our planet - you try and turn it into something useful - its not poker, and no amount of 'talking up' will change it into a car, plow or PC.
I suspect this is something Barry is rather more practiced at arguing, but here are a few points.
Firstly, you haven't created anything physically new; the physical components of the lump are as they were before the state change. This means that any added value is entirely subjective and immaterial.
Secondly, and following on from this, the lump is earth is entirely subjective; which means that different people will value it differently. However, in strict physical terms, there is no change.
: : In thermodynamic terms; in physical terms, the Earth is very definitely a zero-sum-gain system;
: This is unconnected to the term or concept of wealth. I would rather live on a planet with 50% loss of material but with things which enhanced my survivability than on some 'pure' world whose contents were untouched, and useless for life.
And I would rather live on a planet with 50% loss of material than on a completely polluted world useless for life but full of PCs, cars, fridges and factories.
You have to find a middle way between complete purity and complete corruption; because we have already lost 50% of the material (in a form that is of use to us.)
I'm not arguing that this life is better than prehistoric life; that we should all go back to the stone age; I'm saying that this life is dependent on physical materials; that our concept of wealth is predicated on possession of physical materials; and that our continuing overuse of these resources is leading us to the point where these possessions will no longer be of use to us. At this point, our notions of what constitutes 'wealth' to us will be redundant, since the things that made us 'wealthy' are no longer of use.
What use is a PC with no electricity? Without reference to physical objects, what differentiates money from any other bit of paper?