What is ‘Wealth’
Wealth measures the value of all the assets of worth owned by a person, community, company or country. Wealth is determined by taking the total market value of all physical and intangible assets owned, then subtracting all debts. Essentially, wealth is the accumulation of resources. Specific people, organizations and nations are said to be wealthy when they are able to accumulate many valuable resources or goods.
Wealth is expressed in a variety of ways. For individuals, net worth is the most common expression of wealth, while countries measure by gross domestic product (GDP), or GDP per capita.
What Constitutes Wealth
Perceptions of what constitutes wealth changes over time among societies. The ancient Egyptians once had a monetary system based on wheat. Some cultures have used commodities such as rice and salt in place of money at times. Inuit and Eskimo societies traded in seal oil and blubber, which they could eat as food, or burn as fuel to provide light and heat. African and Native American tribes once traded with wampum and shells, and used those as the basis of their monetary systems. Heads of cattle and livestock are still used as mediums of exchange in some cultures.
Money is the most common, albeit imperfect, means of measuring wealth. The value of a product or material used as the basis for a monetary system depends on how much others are willing to trade or provide labor in exchange for it. Another factor is the degree of universal acceptance the material or commodity has. If no one outside a community is willing to accept the money in exchange for goods or services, it has no value outside of the society that uses it.
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