Thursday, March 18, 2010

Wealth, innovation, hardwork and others

This post serves as clarifying some economics concepts for myself also. It has to do with wealth and how it links to being rich and famous and getting adored by the masses.

Imagine that the world has only 2 pple: 1 farmer and 1 fisherman. The farmer harvests some rice every day and the fisherman catches some fishes. The farmer will sell some rice to the fisherman and vice versa. So the money supply in this world has maybe like $4, $2 with the farmer which he gets from selling 2 kg of rice and $2 for the fisherman who sells 2 kg of fish.

So the question is how can either of them get richer?

This is quite easy to answer, say the farmer is the aspire-to-be-rich kind, so he contemplates to be richer than his other companion on this lonely Earth. Well, what can he do? He can raise prices.

Say previously he sold 1kg of his rice for $1 to the fisherman. Now he can sell $2 for 1kg. Then he will be earning twice as much! How wonderful. But then since there is only one other person on this lonely planet, i.e. the fisherman, he will raise prices too unless he is stupid or something.

Then we get into a situation called inflation. Nothing really changed just that things got more expensive. It doesn't mean that if you have more dollar notes, you are richer.

So how does the farmer REALLY gets richer than his companion?

1) He can work harder than his companion, he harvests more rice and sell more to his companion. But since his companion may not be as hardworking, i.e. the fisherman only catches the same amt as previously, he will not be able to sell more fish to get more money to buy more rice.

The farmer's wealth in this world is restricted by the total money supply of $4 so the farmer get "richer" by way of having more free time since he can store up his harvest and wait for the fisherman to have more money to buy from him.

Or he can sell more rice on credit to the fisherman and now he gets more dollars in his safe deposit box while the fisherman has some debt.

2) He can cross pollinate the rice grains and sell a new grain of rice which is more delicious and charge his companion more for each kg. The fisherman "naturally" has to understand the quality difference and is willing to pay more for delicious rice. But again bcos the fisherman may not fish better quality fishes, he is again limited in his capacity to spend and the farmer gains by having more free time or getting money on credit again.

So in other words, the farmer get richer than the fisherman either by working harder, by thinking harder (innovate a new grain of rice) or by luck. Well, the farmer can get lucky and somehow the rice mutate by themselves into a better grain and he then sells it more expensive to the fisherman.

Well there is a fourth way, but it delves into immorality like by cheating the fisherman, telling him the rice is a kind of new grain but in fact it is not. Sadly, a significant proportion of rich people actually amass wealth through this fourth method.

So how can both of them get rich?

It can only be through improvement in efficiency (or technology advancement) for both of them. Say both the farmer and fisherman somehow managed to harvest and fish much more in the same time versus previously, they can then sell to each other in higher volume and get more dollars from each other (i.e. an overall increase in wealth).

If you think of these issues in our world today. Usually most people get rich by through their own hardwork or innovation or luck (or some through deceit), and they managed to amass wealth ahead of the population. But bcos the population is not as advanced as these rich people are, the poor simply gets left behind, becoming poorer in a relative sense. In our 2 pple world, the money supply is restricted bcos there is only 2 pple so the rich farmer can only get more free time or earn money on credit. But in the real world, the rich amass fortunes from 6bn other poor pple. So they get a lot of dollar bills - which are credit to buy services from the society.

The true accomplishment would be the raise the bar for all pple so that everyone gets richer. But this is a feat that is difficult to achieve. Why would the rich raise the bar for everyone so that they become poorer in the relative sense? But for those that do that, we gotta take our hats off to them.
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