When we use the word “value” in an economic sense, there’s typically 2 context in which we’ll be using the word:
- This <item> has this $<amount> “value”, or;
- This $<discount> or $<price> is great “value”.
… but these are both perceived values, and thus they differ from person to person; they’re nothing inherent about the nature of the item, they’re just artificially & arbitrarily attached numbers connected to pretty much nothing whatsoever.
In maths and science however, the word value is very specific:
- In maths it is a generic quantity or value within a number system (the scalar component of a vector value);
- In science it is that same quantity attached to a system of units which quantifies a fundamental property of nature.
Now you might ask “well aren’t dollars those units?”, and if you did I could see how you could make such a mistake … but let us look at the differences here and you’ll see why they’re not the same.
The SI Units are divided into basic and derived units.
So for example: speed & velocity are slightly different units, the former is a scalar quantity with only magnitude, where the latter is a vector quantity having both magnitude and direction; but they’re both derived units measured as d/t (distance divided by time).
Another example is then some basic units such as time, which is measured as in the case of seconds, the amount of time required for the natural frequency of a particular atomic structure to undergo a certain number of cycles … or to pick another example, length or distance might be defined by the amount of space traversed by a photon of light in a particular amount of time.
You get the idea (I hope), that whether basic or derived, scalar or vector: scientific units are tied to natural properties which are as close to unchanging as we can get them, and they don’t change unless we come up with a better way to define them with even greater accuracy & consistency.
Now … compare this to money as a measure of value:
- If you are desperate, the value drops;
- If your negotiating position is poor, the value drops;
- If you’re deceived or defrauded, the value drops;
- If you’re in a hurry, the value drops or rises (depending);
- If you’re not careful …
- If you’re unaware of certain key information …
As you can see, money is not a measure of anything at all … it’s a very brief record of what happened, but such a record is ultimately meaningless for any purpose outside the system itself.
Allow me to demonstrate this further:
- If someone comes to you to purchase a rare item, there’s a second buyer, a third person who wants it but has no money, and you want to put the item in the hands of the one most worthy … the money ONLY tells you to ignore the 3rd person entirely, and if the first two have the same or different amounts of money, that only tells you how much money they have … so it doesn’t help you in any way whatsoever to make an informed decision, indeed it may motivate &/or prevent you from making the best decision if the most worthy person is the one without money;
- If 2 different people work for 40 years at exactly the same company, doing the same number of hours worked … who provided the greatest value to the output of the business? The money would argue the wealthier one, but the reality is that the higher up the hierarchy you go, the more likely it is that those below (the ones producing the output) wouldn’t even know if that person was at work on any particular day … try that with someone at the middle or bottom: their work doesn’t get done, others were relying on it, that work is delayed also, a machine fails to get fixed, the office becomes an unworkable environment, someone else has to take up their slack while also performing their own role … it is noticed immediate;
- A critical social or ecological problem occurs, there’s no $ profit to be made from fixing it, but someone has to pay the wages of people for supplying operating & using resources to fix it … and you’d think fixing it should have a high $ value because of the significance of the issues and consequences, but there’s no queue of companies leaping at the chance to be the hero, even those whom will also suffer its impacts … so society gets together and argues & debates over whether it is really a problem & whether any attempt will be made to fix it at all, because some people neither understand nor believe in the problem, but they’re the ones who have accumulated the most wealth & power, so they have to be convinced, yet all they see is cost.
You get the idea again I hope.
The use of the word value in association with currency based economics, might as well be a misuse of the word, as it is certainly not a rational one.
Open Empire aims to solve this problem by quantifying “value” in thermodynamic terms as the appraisal of ecological & social losses and gains, such that motivational basis of society switches from the acquisition and hoarding of wealth and power, to the achievement of ecological & social justice & sustainability.
In order to do this, we need a completely different framework, one in which nothing is property … all resources are identified to be abundant or scarce, if they’re abundant you just take what you need from whomever supplies & acknowledge having taken it; you then journal how it is used, and this usage is assessed for its consequences which are quantified … then when a resource is scarce, you apply for access, and the merit of your access is assessed by the quantification of the consequences of your consumptive and productive activities.
If your actions tend to minimise harm, minimise scarcity, maximise benefits and maximise abundance, the probability of your access to scarce resources increases. In this way, we ensure that scarcity goes down not up … because the value we’re recognising in this system is REAL and quantifiable in scientific units of measurement.
- If a painting gives you pleasure and helps you stay focused, it is therefore a thermodynamically quantifiable object within a workspace (or resting space), which proportionally contributes to the output of that space;
- If a resting space allows you to recuperate before returning to a workspace, it is a contributor to the output of the workspace;
- If a view through a window of that resting space gives you peace & AIDS recuperation, then that entire ecosystem outdoors (as far as the eye can see) is a contributor to the output of the workspace.
THE SHORT TERM:
You may not see how the kind of complexity above could ever be calculated … but to this concern I have 3 things to say:
- Don’t worry, I can;
- We build up to it slowly;
- It’s entirely possible that by the time we got there, we’d already have retrained our individual & collective psychology to cure the madness which makes us destroy our world, abuse and enslave each other.
In the short term, all we need to do in order to start heading in this direction, is develop and implement some technology, create some other elements of the framework, and start using it for project development. In these humble beginnings, we will measure what we can (as automatically as possible), have computers do the calculation for us), and just focus on identifying the root causes of problems, then quantifying the consequences of various proposed solutions.
In Open Empire no species has greater value than another by opinion … each is assessed in terms of its consumption, production, other functions, relationships etc.
So a simple non-sentient parasitic organism may have less value because it provides little benefit for the cost of the suffering it causes, but to cause its extinction may constitute some gigantic loss in biochemistry, and a solution may be proposed as having the greatest value where it is genetically modified to retain the biochemistry, but to remove an excreted / injected toxin, or in some other way reduce the harm it causes.
Similarly: a larger sentient predatory organism may be perceived as a threat, but it is nonetheless sentient, has value to itself, helps maintain an ecological balance, and provides other ecological services in its activities … but humans wish to encroach on its habitat, so compromises are found which recognise the value of this predator from a non-species-biased perspective, including:
- Leaving its habitat alone as wilderness and building elsewhere;
- Constructing underground habitats;
- Constructing elevated habitats and walkways between them & also between the trees or other structures.
There’s always another way … but when your prime motivation is profit in dollar terms instead of the inherent value of things, you’re likely going to make a very stupid & selfish decision.