The wealth of nations

Date posted: July 31, 2012

The book “The Wealth of Nations” is one of the most famous economics volumes ever written. But when we take the title literally and look at what really composes national wealth, what do we see? N.C. State University economist Mike Walden responds.

“Well, we see that three factors really make up a nation’s wealth:

“One would be human wealth — the value of people’s knowledge and skills.

“Secondly would be natural wealth, things like land, forest, minerals and fuels.

“And then thirdly would be physical wealth, buildings, machinery, infrastructure, et cetera.

“When you take all three of these in combination and do the calculation for all countries, the U.S. by far is the wealthiest nation in the world. In 2008, we had a wealth total that’s estimated at $118 trillion — that’s trillion dollars.

“Japan was second at $55 trillion.

“China was a far third at $20 trillion.

“Now if you do it on a per person basis look at wealth per person, actually the rankings shift a little bit. Japan is actually number one. The U.S. is number two, and Canada comes in at number three. So, we obviously focus a lot on employment, on income, but it’s also important to look at the wealth of nations.”

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