The second chapter of John Ruskin’s book Unto This Last might be summarized as follows:
- Real wealth usually involves control over the labor of others:
What is really desired, under the name of riches, is essentially, power over men; in its simplest sense, the power of obtaining for our own advantage the labour of servant, tradesman, and artist; in wider sense, authority of directing large masses of the nation to various ends (good, trivial or hurtful, according to the mind of the rich person).
- Private wealth acquired by unjust methods damages a nation; private wealth acquired by just methods benefits a nation:
Inequalities of wealth, unjustly established, have assuredly injured the nation in which they exist during their establishment; and, unjustly directed, injure it yet more during their existence. But inequalities of wealth, justly established, benefit the nation in the course of their establishment; and, nobly used, aid it yet more by their existence.
- Wealth in and of itself is neither good nor bad; what makes it good or bad (and beneficial or unbeneficial) is the justness by which it was acquired. Justly acquired wealth benefits a nation; unjustly acquired wealth has the opposite effect:
Any given accumulation of commercial wealth may be indicative, on the one hand, of faithful industries, progressive energies, and productive ingenuities: or, on the other, it may be indicative of mortal luxury, merciless tyranny, ruinous chicane.
- It is therefore impossible to separate the study of economics from issues of morality.
- Since real wealth consists in control of the labor of others, and since control of the labor of others is best assured when workers are treated justly, it follows that the just treatment of workers is essential to the possession of real wealth.