This is false, and frankly a bit insulting.
If capitalism was just a competition, we'd still be fighting over castles and wheat and Trojan women. Cars, computers, and indoor plumbing wouldn't exist.
> There is WAY more wealth around on earth in 2017 than there was in 1917, 1017, or 117
Agreed. Also inequality is higher than ever.
> Most of the wealthiest folks get rich by inventing/creating new wealth, not by stealing from others.
False. They get rich by extracting surplus out of the new wealth created by someone's labor. Whether we call that stealing or not I don't care.
> If capitalism was just a competition, we'd still be fighting over castles and wheat and Trojan women. Cars, computers, and indoor plumbing wouldn't exist.
As I said, wealth is not a zero sum game.
But for someone to be rich, someone has to be poor. By definition. For someone to extract surplus, someone has to create value--i.e. work. By definition.
Now, you could argue that in a society with a lot of wealth, one can be "poor by definition" or a salaried worker, and still live a life in dignity. I concede that this could be a theoretical possibility. It could make for an interesting science fiction novel.
In most parts of the real world (including the USA), being poor is miserable and doing salaried work is alienating and most often exploitative.
So 1) not everyone can be wealthy and 2) for a single person to become more wealthy someone else gets poorer.
Clearly relative wealth is a zero sum game. By definition - relative wealth is defined by your difference from the mean, so any change in society's overall wealth is subtracted off.
Absolute wealth is empirically not zero sum. Any disagreement about whether "wealth is zero sum" is either disputing that empirical result, or arguing that the relative wealth definition is more important somehow. So if you're going to argue that you should provide some reasoning.
I think the truth is somewhere in the middle, and that maximising something like median wealth is what's optimal for human flourishing.
So almost all acknowledge that luck can play a factor, how much can sometimes be up for debate. So if you are lucky do you deserve all that comes your way? or should you play nice and share? And if someone else's luck was even partly the cause of your misfortune how would you feel?
I don't have the answers but I think the subject is worth thinking about; especially as it seems difficult to square the circle.