Abstract: Modern economists have accustomed us to put different things under the words wealth. Some authors of the past tackled more thoroughly the question of the nature of wealth and the correlated question of the role of money. We present three prominent examples of different periods but of a common spirit: the Physiocrat François Quesnay, in 18th. century France, the art-critic John Ruskin in his essay Unto This Last (1862), and the pioneering radio-chemist Frederick Soddy who turned from science to economics in the 1920s. Each one in his own way, they all highlight the flow of “real wealth” as opposed to “virtual wealth” of money, which can endlessly grow. Rejected by the orthodox economists, these insights could lead to an ironic thesis: wealth as the biggest taboo in economics. As a conclusion we will propose to change the word-alternative: “degrowth versus growth”, into “real wealth versus virtual wealth”.
There is no paper for this media entry. This was a contribution to a scientific session at the 4th International Degrowth Conference in Leipzig in 2014, which doesn’t exist in written format or is not published under open access.