What is prosperity and why can it be good? I believe global prosperity is where all have the basics of life, including food, shelter, education, and healthcare. We may not—and probably won’t—have everything we want, as that is limitless and basically unattainable. This ideal state—Heaven on Earth element—is filled with gratitude for our means, rather than envy for those who have more, or condescension toward those who have less.
There has never been a time in human history where all had the same means. The 20th century is full of the tragedies of genocide in the Soviet Union (20 million people) and China (a staggering 70 million people) where the Communist experiment with equal outcomes played out. The charade of Communism is still in Cuba and North Korea to the extreme detriment of their people.
Greed and envy—negative values—are closely related. Both are very detrimental to a satisfying life. While it is important to have the ambition and desire to care for oneself and family, the lust for more, more, more beyond one’s reasonable aspirations can become greed. Timing can matter; for instance, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett certainly avidly pursued great wealth, but eventually became philanthropic with their vast means.
It’s not just timing within one generation. Passing wealth from one generation to another can result in dramatic advances, such as those by Darwin and Newton. Personally, I have felt a great responsibility to use my inherited wealth to benefit others as well as my family and myself.
Financial literacy is critical for all. But when wealth is passed from generation to generation, it requires a preparation for the handling of such assets, not just for the generation receiving the wealth, but also for their frame of mind to use the wealth and, in the end, benefit others.