George Gilder is one of the most interesting economic philosophers of all time. I think of him as being 9/10ths right about anything he chooses to talk about, except that the 1/10th he leaves out is the part the rest of us want most to grasp and fully understand.
Gilder’s input to the essay at hand is a case in point. “Wealth is most essentially knowledge,” Mr. Gilder says.
Well, yes. That’s the 9/10ths part. The 1/10th part is that no one can eat, wear, or shelter in knowledge itself.
Gilder means to draw attention to the continuum of production and consumption that is the basis of all economic thinking. People must produce in order to consume and they must consume in order to produce. In effect, production and consumption are always in equilibrium whether conditions are rich or poor.
It is in this context that wealth is essentially knowledge. With knowledge people can increase production and thereby increase consumption. In effect, knowledge transmogrifies into thicker waistlines, finer clothing and better housing.
In the end, however, I think it is wrong to think of knowledge as wealth. It would be more accurate to think (more humbly) of knowledge as the source of process improvement on the production side of the economic equation.