Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Unpacking "Value"

I'm on a mission to understand the idea of value. It's important to know what we're talking about when we say something is valuable. A start:

Two "value"s - a concept of worth vs. beliefs about how things should be. They are related in that values as beliefs define what a person or culture thinks is worth defending or promulgating.

Moral vs. natural goods - both can have value.

"In Ecological Economics value theory is separated into two types: Donor-type value and receiver-type value. Ecological economists tend to believe that 'real wealth' needs a donor-determined value as a measure of what things were needed to make an item or generate a service. (H.T. Odum 1996). An example of receiver-type value is 'market value', or 'willingness to pay', the principal method of accounting used in neo-classical economics. In contrast both, Marx's Labour Theory of Value and the 'Emergy' concept are conceived as donor-type value. Emergy theorists believe that this conception of value has relevance to all of philosophy, economics, sociology and psychology as well as Environmental Science."

Instrumental vs. instrinsic value - "An instrumental value is worth having as a means towards getting something else that is good (e.g., a radio is instrumentally good in order to hear music). An intrinsically valuable thing is worth having for itself, not as a means to something else. It is giving value intrinsic and extrinsic properties." Not mutually exclusive. John Dewey rejected the idea of intrinsic value.

"Marx distinguished between the "value in use" (use-value, what a commodity provides to its buyer), "value" (the socially-necessary labour time it embodies), and "exchange value" (how much labor-time the sale of the commodity can claim, Smith's "labor commanded" value)"

In economics, the worth of a good or service as determined by the market. Value in use vs. value in exchange. The value in exchange is relative to other goods.

Labor Theory of Value - "In classical economics, the value of an object or condition is the amount of discomfort/labor saved through the consumption or use of an object or condition."

"The value of a thing in any given time and place", according to Henry George, "is the largest amount of exertion that anyone will render in exchange for it. But as men always seek to gratify their desires with the least exertion this is the lowest amount for which a similar thing can otherwise be obtained."

"In 1860 John Ruskin published a critique of the economic concept of value from a moral point of view. He entitled the volume Unto This Last, and his central point was this: "It is impossible to conclude, of any given mass of acquired wealth, merely by the fact of its existence, whether it signifies good or evil to the nation in the midst of which it exists. Its real value depends on the moral sign attached to it, just as strictly as that of a mathematical quantity depends on the algebraic sign attached to it. 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 chicanery." Gandhi was greatly inspired by Ruskin's book and published a paraphrase of it in 1908."

"Value in the most basic sense can be referred to as "Real Value" or "Actual Value." This is the measure of worth that is based purely on the utility derived from the consumption of a product or service. Utility derived value allows products or services to be measured on outcome instead of demand or supply theories that have the inherent ability to be manipulated. Illustration: The real value of a book sold to a student who pays $50.00 at the cash register for the text and who earns no additional income from reading the book is essentially zero. However; the real value of the same text purchased in a thrift shop at a price of $0.25 and provides the reader with an insight that allows him or her to earn $100,000.00 in additional income is $100,000.00 or the extended lifetime value earned by the consumer. This is value calculated by actual measurements of ROI instead of production input and or demand vs. supply. No single unit has a fixed value. Value is intrinsically related to the worth derived by the consumer. [Burke(2005)]."

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