Human and Other Types of Capital
What makes America wealthy?
Some would argue that America is rich ” and it is the richest country in history, by far ” because of its people.
Specifically, their ingenuity, drive, skills, diversity, etc.
Call that the nation’s “human capital.”
Some would say America’s wealth lies in its bountiful natural gifts: its harbors, topsoil, fresh water, and abundant energy reserves (coal, oil and natural gas) ” not to mention aesthetic treasures like Yosemite and Yellowstone.
Such blessings constitute the nation’s “natural capital.”
Still others would point to America’s infrastructure ” its grid of roads, tunnels, bridges, factories, and communication networks (frayed or aging as some of those things may now be).
Economists refer to those things collectively as a nation’s physical plant or capital.
America’s True Crown Jewel
As prodigious as all those things are, though, even combined, I’d argue that they still pale in comparison to the United States’ true crown jewel: its now-centuries old legal, social, and “ yes, even political institutions.
I’m referring to such things as its democratic form of government; a deeply established rule of law; the country’s tradition of public education and world-class universities; and its market-based, capitalistic economy.
And just as importantly, the mindset of trust, cooperation, and spirited competition that undergirds such institutions.
Call all those things a country’s social capital ” its “national DNA.”
As America breaks to celebrate Thanksgiving 2018, my wish is that we collectively give thanks for our remarkable national inheritance — and commit to protecting it for future generations.