Wealth as Social Goodwill


When you think about wealth and abundance, do you automatically think of money?

Money is a form of social credit. The more money you have, the greater your ability to purchase goods and services that people are willing to exchange for money. This includes food, clothing, housing, schooling, transportation, technology, medical and legal assistance, and more. Money is a robust medium of exchange because lots of people are willing to trade for it.

 

However, money isn’t the only social medium of exchange. We sometimes forget that money is ultimately used to trade value for value. But we don’t always have to go through the middleman of money. You can also earn, hold, and exchange value through the medium of social goodwill.

We can trade value for money, and then trade money for value at a later date. But we can also trade value for social goodwill, and then trade that social goodwill for value at a later date.

When someone holds you in high esteem, for instance, they may gladly offer you value without asking any money in return. This is still a form of reciprocity, but you’ve earned their reciprocity without purchasing it with money.

For example…

  • You can buy a massage (money). Or you can ask a loved one to give you a massage (goodwill).You can buy gas and drive your car (money). Or you can ask a friend for a ride (goodwill).
  • You can buy a meal at a restaurant (money). Or someone may invite you to dinner (goodwill).
  • In some situations money works better. In other situations goodwill works better. You can even exchange money for social goodwill and vice versa.

 

Money is a very popular medium of exchange, but social goodwill is tax-free. When you earn money, it’s taxed. When you earn interest on your money, the interest is taxed. When you spend money, it’s taxed. When you accumulate wealth from capital gains, the gains are taxed. When inflation occurs, your money gets hit by a hidden tax. When you earn and spend social goodwill, however, it’s tax-free across the board.

Social goodwill can also provide value without your needing to spend it directly. People will come to you and offer value, seemingly for free, if they appreciate you enough. People who have earned a lot of goodwill are frequently offered gifts they don’t have to pay for, including free food, lodging, and transportation. They’ve earned the appreciation of others.

Social goodwill is less precise than money. It’s difficult to accurately measure social goodwill with a number, such as an approval rating. But even though you can’t measure it as precisely, you can still earn and spend it.

Social goodwill is similar but not identical to political capital. It’s easier for a politician to enlist the cooperation of others to get things done when they’ve accumulating a sufficient amount of political capital.

Suppose you wanted to travel around the world. One option is that you could spend money. Another option is that you could spend social goodwill. You could rent a hotel room, or you could stay with someone who’s happy to offer you a place to stay. You could buy a plane ticket, or someone could fly you to your destination on their private jet.

If you don’t have much money or goodwill to spend, you could travel frugally, staying in cheap places or couch surfing. You could ask for favors from people who are willing to be generous.

If you have lots of money or goodwill to spend, you could travel in style, enjoying luxurious accommodations along the way.

I’m not suggesting that goodwill is better than money or vice versa. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes money works better. Sometimes goodwill works better.

I would say that money is currently the more robust medium of exchange, at least in the USA where I live. But I also think this is shifting. The world is becoming more interconnected, which means there’s less friction for exchanging goodwill.

So even if you choose to acquire and hold wealth primarily in the form of money, don’t discount the benefits of acquiring and holding some wealth in the form of social goodwill. Ultimately these two forms of wealth can support each other. If you have lots of goodwill, it’s easier to earn money. People will be eager to work with you and do deals with you. And if you ever run out of money, it’s a lot easier to get back on your feet if you have abundant goodwill on your side.

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