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Crap on stilts

I was recently asked if crap on stilts is wealth? It may be, but only if someone wants it. Putting the crap on stilts is a work of  human labour, which is part of the qualification for falling into the category “wealth”, but the product must still satisfy someone’s desire. As crap is good fertiliser, this is the case, so yes, it probably is.

Crap was at one time the subject of a major industry. Sea-bird crap from Chile, known as guano is rich in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. It was widely used as a fertiliser in the late nineteenth century. As supplies seemed likely to run out, scientists searched for ways of producing artificial alternatives, and the result, in 1907, the German chemist Haber developed a process which used ammonia, a readily available inorganic chemical. This proved very handy as it made it easier to manufacture nitric acid, an essential raw material for explosives, just in time for the First World War. Potassium and phosphorus are, however, elements less easily replaced; phosphorus in the form of phosphate rock is not particularly common and with increasing consumption, there is concern about future shortages.

To return to the original question: crap in its natural state is not wealth until someone shifts their arse and starts to shovel it off the ground. It is wealth once it has been loaded onto trucks and is on its way to its final destination as fertiliser. If you own the land where the guano is sitting, you are wealthy because you can charge other people for shovelling the shit which is there and thus have a claim on the wealth they have produced through their work.