Socialists and "progressives" of various stripes always want to argue that the distribution of wealth among nations is basically due to luck, in large part related to the distribution of natural resources.
This is disprovable in about 2 seconds: Russia (via Cafe Hayek) and the Netherlands. Russia, resource-wise, is perhaps the richest country in the world. It is, our could be, among the largest producers of any number of natural resources, from diamonds and gold to oil and uranium. But its economy is a disaster. The Netherlands, resource wise, has about nothing. There are few third world economic hell-holes that don't begin with infinitely more resources than the Dutch, but the Dutch are among the richest nations in the world.
Wealth comes not from labor or capital or resources - wealth comes from the mind, and as such requires a rule of law where the mind is free not only to imagine new ideas but to pursue and reap the fruits of these ideas. As I said in this article:
From the year 1000 to the year 1700, the world's wealth, measured as GDP per capita, was virtually unchanged.
Since 1700, the GDP per capita in places like the US has risen, in real
terms, over 40 fold. This is a real increase in total wealth - it is
not money stolen or looted or exploited. Wealthy nations like the US
didn't "take" the wealth from somewhere else - it never even existed
before. It was created by the minds of human beings.
How? What changed?
- There was a philosophical and intellectual
change where questioning established beliefs and social patterns went
from being heresy and unthinkable to being acceptable, and even in
vogue. In other words, men, at first just the elite but soon everyone,
were urged to use their mind rather than just relying on established
- There were social and political changes that greatly increased
the number of people capable of entrepreneurship. Before this time,
the vast vast majority of people were locked into social positions that
allowed them no flexibility to act on a good idea, even if they had
one. By starting to create a large and free middle class, first in the
Netherlands and England and then in the US, more people had the ability
to use their mind to create new wealth. Whereas before, perhaps 1% or
less of any population really had the freedom to truly act on their
ideas, after 1700 many more people began to have this freedom.
So today's wealth, and everything that goes with it (from shorter
work hours to longer life spans) is the result of more people using
their minds more freely.