Paul Graham on Wealth


This essay is by Paul Graham.  It is so full of good information it is hard to know where to start.  Below he clears up the distinction between money and wealth.  It explains why craftsman understand this concept in a very intuitive way. Surgeons are sort of the craftsmen of the medical world – we are sometimes put down for this by our medicine colleagues – but after reading the essay one can clearly grasp how philosophical differences between the two camps might develop.  Read the whole thing.  Note also the other forms of wealth creation that he points out.  I particularly enjoy how he uses historical examples such as Florence to bring his points home.

The whole essay is excellent. Thanks to alex popescu for linking to Paul Graham’s page and turning me on to his essays.

“If you want to create wealth, it will help to understand what it is. Wealth is not the same thing as money. [3] Wealth is as old as human history. Far older, in fact; ants have wealth. Money is a comparatively recent invention.

Wealth is the fundamental thing. Wealth is stuff we want: food, clothes, houses, cars, gadgets, travel to interesting places, and so on. You can have wealth without having money. If you had a magic machine that could on command make you a car or cook you dinner or do your laundry, or do anything else you wanted, you wouldn’t need money. Whereas if you were in the middle of Antarctica, where there is nothing to buy, it wouldn’t matter how much money you had.

Wealth is what you want, not money. But if wealth is the important thing, why does everyone talk about making money? It is a kind of shorthand: money is a way of moving wealth, and in practice they are usually interchangeable. But they are not the same thing, and unless you plan to get rich by counterfeiting, talking about making money can make it harder to understand how to make money.

I think this is a perfect opportunity to introduce one of my favorite people I’ve met on my healthcare journey– Matthew DiPaola. He’s an orthopedic surgeon who just finished his fellowship in NYC and has, unfortunately for me, moved to Ohio. A few times a day, I get an email from someone somewhere in the US who is inspired by Hello Health and can see its potential. That’s how I met Matt. There are tens to hundreds of thousands of us doctors out there who immediately get Hello Health. And now it’s just linking this network together via a doctor-powered social and professional network. It’s going to be a big year for us…

Anyway, Matt is one of those people who understands the complexities and the absurdities of the healthcare system. I look at these through the eyes of primary care. He looks at them through the eyes of a highly specialized surgeon. He’s the guy I go to to understand the other side of the story.

I’d highly suggest following him on tumblr. He’s one of the smartest guys I know…and always an interesting read. And if you live in Ohio and need an orthopedic surgeon, well, I couldn’t imagine you could get someone better.

I got to meet Paul last weekend at FooCamp. During Marissa Meyer’s talk about “The Future of News” he was sitting on the floor in a hot, cramped room on the sidelines while everyone else in the room was heatedly arguing, he was taking it all in, reflecting, and then said something masterful…on par with this post about wealth.

Thanks Matt…

Paul Graham on Wealth