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Wednesday, November 21, 2012


              The word wealth is defined by being in a state of prosperity or to have an excess of riches. At its root, wealth has well, which means to be in a state of well-being or also of profit. The word well was first recorded in 888 AD as wĕl, which carried the same meaning that it does today. The wealthy of modern times always have an abundance of money, for money is the commodity of a profit. However, well (most commonly written as do well) as an adverb is defined as acting in good moral standing. The moral virtue of the wealthy is not their most recognized attribute, and it has traditionally not been the view of the common person that the wealthy are virtuous. In order for one man to have an excess of some commodity, another must have a deficiency.
            The root of the word wealth, which is wĕl, became weal, which describes riches and possessions in terms of both the individual and the collective. Weal reflects the waves of nationalism that swept across Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries which frequently resulted in violence for the wealth of the nation- “this needful violence is for thy safety, No less than for the general weal” (Byron, 1820). The first international collective that campaigned for the wealth of the collective was the Church. Although collection was supposedly undertaken for the weal of the Church as a whole(Prescott, 1838), much of the wealth was going to a priveleged few, and the corruption that was associated with this excess forever changed the definition of wealth in institutions. The moral virtue that was derived from wĕl disappeared from the working mans definition of wealth; if the single greatest western institution following the word of god could not maintain moral virtue in the face of material excess, than how could any other institution?
            The modern word wealth evolved from weal as an analogy to health, as fiscal strength and strength of the body is pillars of a prosperous life. Both health and wealth have common uses, which include welfare and well-being. Well being of the body has become just as important as the well being of an individual’s finances. A capitalist economy in a secular society depends on the individual working to amass the greatest wealth possible; competition is what capitalism depends on to be successful. The public-weal of modern society is not wealth for all, but wealth for a few in order to maintain a strong and competitive economy.  Since the general wealth of a nation and personal wealth are so disconnected in the eyes of the working class, the animosity between the workers and wealthy grows. The tension between workers and the wealthy only grows in the face of corporate corruption. Unfortunately in capitalism, without the drive for individual wealth, the wealth of the nation, which is the strength of its economy, falters.  Thus, the well-being of a capitalist nation is inherently dependent on the well-being of the entrepreneurs and business man. Unfortunately the practice of trickle-down economics does not always reach the workers in the manner it should as a result of corruption. The rich collect more wealth while the worker still lives with less.

Works Cited

Holden, Richard, ed. Oxford. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. Accessed November 16, 2012. http://www.oed.com/search?searchType=dictionary&q

Harper, Douglas, ed. Online Etymology Dictionary. 2001. Last modified 2012. Accessed October 20, 2012. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term

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