5
$\begingroup$

JS Mill in his Principles (1848):

But though air is not wealth, mankind are much richer by obtaining it gratis, since the time and labour which would otherwise be required for supplying the most pressing of all wants, can be devoted to other purposes.

I am bewildered by the above sentence. Mill seems to be making a distinction between "riches" (or "being rich") and "wealth" (or "being wealthy"). But what is this distinction?

$\endgroup$
7
$\begingroup$

I can only speculate on what Mill meant, but it seems to me that

  1. This is mostly a figure of speech. People sometimes say things like "I have no money, but I am wealthy in other ways", meaning they have something they would not trade for money, i.e. monetary wealth.
  2. If there is a distinction, it is in the concept of ownership. Air is not wealth because I do not own it. There are several things that are beneficial to have (that enrich us) that we do not own and could not easily trade. Health, loved ones, air, etc. One can have, but not own these things, so they are not wealth. (Except in Spaceballs.)
| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ +1 although you can get air in the bottle not just in spaceballs google.nl/amp/s/amp.cnn.com/cnn/2015/12/15/asia/… $\endgroup$ – 1muflon1 Jul 14 at 13:20
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @1muflon1 :) 1000 units seems like a novelty item. You can get compressed air in can in most computer service stores to clean out your laptop. $\endgroup$ – Giskard Jul 14 at 14:54
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ note: compressed air cans don't necessarily contain air - just any inert gas. $\endgroup$ – user253751 Jul 14 at 19:30
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I don't think compressed air cans ever contain air; Wikipedia says they contain hydrofluorocarbons instead. $\endgroup$ – Tanner Swett Jul 14 at 20:04

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.