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SECTION II.: What is Wealth? - Lysander Spooner, The Law of Intellectual Property; or An Essay on the Right of Authors and Inventors to a Perpetual Property in their Ideas 
The Law of Intellectual Property; or An Essay on the Right of Authors and Inventors to a Perpetual Property in their Ideas (Boston: Bela Marsh, 1855).
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What is Wealth?
Wealth is any thing, that is, or can be made, valuable to man, or available for his use.
The term wealth properly includes every conceivable object, idea, and sensation, that can either contribute to, or constitute, the physical, intellectual, moral, or emotional well-being of man.
Light, air, water, earth, vegetation, minerals, animals, every material thing, living or dead, animate or inanimate, that can aid, in any way, the comfort, happiness, or welfare of man, are wealth.
Things intangible and imperceptible by our physical organs, and perceptible only by the intellect, or felt only by the affections, are wealth. Thus liberty is wealth; opportunity is wealth; motion or labor is wealth; rest is wealth; reputation is wealth; love is wealth; sympathy is wealth; hope is wealth; knowledge is wealth; truth is wealth; for the simple reason that they all contribute to, or constitute in part, a man’s well-being.
All a man’s faculties, physical, intellectual, moral, and affectional, whereby he either procures, or enjoys, happiness, are wealth.
Happiness itself is wealth. It is the highest wealth. It is the ultimate wealth, which it is the object of all other wealth to procure.
Inasmuch as any given thing is wealth, because, and solely because, it may contribute to, or constitute, the happiness or well-being of man, it follows that every thing, that can contribute to, or constitute, his happiness or well-being, is necessarily wealth.
The question whether a given thing be, or be not wealth, does not therefore depend at all upon its being tangible or perceptible by our physical organs; because its capacity to contribute to, or constitute, the happiness of man, does not depend at all upon its being thus tangible or perceptible. Things intangible and imperceptible by our physical organs, as liberty, reputation, love, and truth, for example, have as clearly a capacity to contribute to, and constitute, the happiness and well-being of man, as have any of those things that are thus tangible and perceptible.
Another reason why tangibility and perceptibility by our physical organs, are no criteria of wealth, is, that it really is not our physical organs, but the mind, and only the mind, that takes cognizance even of material objects. We are in the habit of saying that the eye sees any material object. But, in reality, it is only the mind that sees it. The mind sees it through the eye. It uses the eye merely as an instrumentality for seeing it. An eye, without a mind, could see nothing. So also it is with the hand, as it is with the eye. We are in the habit of saying that the hand touches any material thing. But, in reality, it is only the mind, that perceives the contact, or takes cognizance of the touch. The hand, without the mind, could feel nothing, and take cognizance of nothing, it should come in contact with. The mind simply uses the hand, as an instrument for touching; just as it uses the eye, as an instrument for seeing. It is, therefore, only the mind, that takes cognizance of any thing material. And every thing, of which the mind does take cognizance, is equally wealth, whether it be material or immaterial; whether it be tangible or perceptible, through the instrumentality of our physical organs, or not. It would be absurd to say that one thing was wealth, because the mind was obliged to use such material instruments as the hand, or the eye, to perceive it; and that another thing, as an idea, for example, was not wealth, simply because the mind could perceive it without using any material instruments.
It is plain, therefore, that an idea, which the mind perceives, without the instrumentality of our physical organs, is as clearly wealth, as is a house, or a horse, or any material thing, which the mind sees by the aid of the eye, or touches through the instrumentality of the hand. The capacity of the thing, whether it be a horse, a house, or an idea, to contribute to, or constitute, the well-being of man, is the only criterion by which to determine whether or not it be wealth; and not its tangibility or perceptibility, through the agency of our physical organs.
An idea, then, is wealth. It is equally wealth, whether it be regarded, as some ideas may be, simply as, in itself, an object of enjoyment, reflection, meditation, and thus a direct source of happiness; or whether it be regarded, as other ideas may be, simply as a means to be used for acquiring other wealth, intellectual, moral, affectional, or material.
An idea is self-evidently wealth, when it imparts happiness directly. It is wealth, because it imparts happiness. It is also equally wealth, when it is used as an instrument or means of creating or acquiring other wealth. It is then as clearly wealth, as is any other instrumentality for acquiring wealth.
The idea, after which a machine is fashioned, is as clearly wealth, as is the material of which the machine is composed. The idea is the life of the machine, without which, the machine would be inoperative, powerless, and incapable of producing wealth.
The plan after which a house is built, is as much wealth, as is the material of which the house is constructed. Without the plan, the material would have failed to furnish shelter or comfort to the owner. It would have failed to be a house.
The idea, or design, after which a telescope is constructed, is as much wealth, as are the materials of which the telescope is composed. Without the idea, the materials would have failed to aid men in their examination of the heavens.
The design, after which a picture is drawn, is as clearly wealth, as is the canvas on which it is drawn, or the paint with which it is drawn. Without the design, the canvas and the paint could have done nothing towards producing the picture, which is now so valuable.
The same principle governs in every department and variety of industry. An idea is every where and always the guide of labor, in the production and acquisition of wealth; and the idea, that guides labor, in the production or acquisition of wealth, is itself as obviously wealth, as is the labor, or as is any other instrumentality, agency, object, or thing whatever, whether material or immaterial, that aids in the production or acquisition of wealth.
To illustrate—The compass and rudder, that are employed in guiding a ship, and without which the ship would be useless, are as much wealth, as is the ship itself, or as is the freight which the ship is to carry. But it is plain that the mind, that observes the compass, and the thought, that impels and guides the hand that moves the rudder, are also as much wealth, as are the compass and rudder themselves.
So the thought, that guides the hand in labor, is ever as clearly wealth, as is the hand itself; or as is the material, on which the hand is made to labor; or as is the commodity, which the hand is made to produce. But for the thought, that guides the hand, the commodity would not be produced; the labor of the hand would be fruitless, and therefore valueless.
Every thing, therefore—whether intellectual, moral, or material, however gross, or however subtile; whether tangible or intangible, perceptible or imperceptible, by our physical organs—of which the human mind can take cognizance, and which, either as a means, occasion, or end, can either contribute to, or of itself constitute, the well-being of man, is wealth.
Mankind, in their dealings with each other, in their purchases, and in their sales, both tacitly and expressly acknowledge and act upon the principle, that a thought is wealth; that it is a wealth whose value is to be estimated and paid for, like other wealth. Thus a machine is valuable in the market, according to the idea, after which it is fashioned. The plan, after which a house is built, enters into the market value of the house. The design, after which a picture is drawn, and the skill with which it is drawn, enter into, and mainly constitute, the mercantile value of the picture itself. The canvas and the paint, as simple materials, are worth—in comparison with the thought and skill embodied in the picture—only as one to an hundred, a thousand, or ten thousand.
Mankind, ignorant and enlightened, savage and civilized, with nearly unbroken universality, regard ideas, thoughts, and emotions, as the most valuable wealth they can either possess for themselves, or give to their children. They value them, both as direct sources of happiness, and as aids to the acquisition of other wealth. They are, therefore, all assiduously engaged in acquiring ideas, for their own enjoyment and use, and imparting them to their children, for their enjoyment and use. They voluntarily exchange their own material wealth, for the intellectual wealth of other men. They pay their money for other men’s thoughts, written on paper, or uttered by the voice. So self-evident, indeed, is it that ideas are wealth, in the universal judgment of mankind, that it would have been entirely unnecessary to assert and illustrate the fact thus elaborately, in this connection, were it not that the principle lies at the foundation of all inquiries as to what is property; and, at the same time, it is one that is so universally, naturally, and unconsciously, received and acted upon, in practical life, that it is never even brought into dispute; men do not stop to theorize upon it; and therefore do not form any such definite, exact, or clear ideas about it, as are necessary to furnish, or constitute, the basis, or starting point, of the subsequent inquiries, to which this essay is devoted. For these reasons, the principle has now been stated thus particularly.