Related to a previous post. From Deirdre McCloskey’s The Bourgeois Dignity (p 141):
People seem to be mixing up financial wealth and real wealth. Financial wealth in a bank account is merely a paper claim to the society’s real wealth by this person against that person. The society’s real wealth itself, on the other, is a house or ship or education. From the point of view of the society as a whole the real wealth is what’s needed for real investment, not paper claims or gold coins. The paper claims are merely ways of keeping track of who owns the returns to the capital. They are not the real capital itself. You can’t build a factory with pound notes, or dig a canal with bank accounts. You need bricks and wheelbarrows, and people skilled to wield them. Mere financing or ownership can hardly be the crux, or else the Catholic Church in 1300, with its dominate command of tokens of wealth, would have created an industrial society. Or the Philips II, III, and IV of Spain-who after all were the principal beneficiaries of the treasure fleets the English and Dutch privateers preyed upon-would have financed industrial revolutions in Bilboa and Barcelona instead of obstructing them.