First off, Solam, your assessment of the origin of magic in this setting is dead wrong. Magic passes through channelers. Either way, your platitudes about "money makes the world go round" are completely irrelevant in regard to what we're talking about.
Second, I think we have people missing the point, here. People seem to be suggesting that, by the current model of the economy, magic is mired with the mundane economy, which it is. Which is why... I'm suggesting that we change the model to accomodate two separate economies. This is a game. It can be made however we'd like with whatever kinds of balance between different elements we'd like.
As for Matberry, you have social entities all the time appear in fantasy that possess immense magical powers but poor infrastructure by conventional development standards. Just think of Fey creatures. Also, I'm assuming that you don't have much background in fantasy strategy games, because using magic to summon soldiers is in no way a new idea. So, Mat, when you refer to seeking out and securing resources, this can be done just as meaningful with summoned soldiers than real ones. Ideally, though, most armies will be better off with a good strategic mix of soldiers, with real men fleshing out the principle roles and magical soldiers (elementals, fey creatures, magic bound monsters) would serve as auxilliary roles.
People seem to be of the impression that an empire focusing in magic would have an immensely powerful wizard inside of his tower with a vast empire of destitute peasants outside. This is an innacurate depiction for the system I'm proposing. A magically powerful civilization would be small in population, because population is a function of the mundane economy, not the magical economy. Buildings that increase population, house population, and feed population are all a function of the mundane economic system where as a small group of trained and magically infused individuals are part of the magical economy. The two economies would have 1 or 2 limited resources in common so, at its base level, the player must balance between the two and is unable to blitz forward with both (essence as that limiting resource, perhaps?).
So what we end up with this system is a plethora of magical and mundane combinations. You could have a civilization that focuses heavily on wealth and population growth, but little magic. You could have a small population kingdom of immense magical power and high wealth. You could have a highly magical kingdom with a powerful upper class and underfed peasantry. With the current system in place in Elemental where both magic and mundane economy are bound, you have one linear path. Money helps you make magic, so they both progress at roughly the same pace depending only on what resources you start next to or conquer.
Let me illustrate how the other system would work more clearly. The idea is you would use magical power to create infrastructure for your magical economy and mundane assets to create your mundane economy. Your magical infrastructure would consist of the magical flows and bindings that you create inside of your tower (or any other structural flavor that might exist.) The stone that is used to make the infrastructure of your magical economy is of trivial meaning when compared to the magic power needed. To contrast, let's pretend we have a civilization that has both economies balanced. Their mundane economy would consist of roughly 95 percent of the buildings in their city, 99 percent of the population, and 5 percent of their tower space. The magical economy would consist of 5 percent of the building space in their city, 1 percent of their population, and 95 percent of their tower space. Occassionally, you would have elements of the magical economy spill into the mundane economy and likewise.
Civilizations top heavy in magic will have spatially small cities, small populations, and small armies but a high number of magically adept citizens, magically powerful towers, and a large selection of magical hosts, magical weapons, and soldiers. Civilizations top heavy in the mundane economy would have large cities, large armies, large populations, but a light nimber of magically adept citizens, small towers, and few magical auxilliary soldiers.
Make sense yet?