more on value

February 19, 2011

In that old microeconomics textbook, the Wealth of Nations, it is written:

“the principle circumstances which [] make up for a small pecuniary gain in some employments, and counterbalance a great one in others: first, the agreeableness or disagreeableness of the employments themselves; secondly, the easiness and cheapness, or the difficulty and expense of learning them; thirdly, the constancy, or inconstancy of employment in them; fourthly, the small or great trust which must be reposed in those who exercise them; and fifthly, the probability or improbability of success in them.”

So, value is given to that which solves or displaces the problems of = 1) shit (taboo acts marked by prejudice), 2) effort (including existential) in learning (uncertainty/mystery/lack of knowledge/unexplained), 3)  irregularity/insecurity (fear), 4) trust issues (risk), 5) likelihood of success/authenticity (reputation)

Or, to be half-assed about it: value = scarcity. Scarcity is subjective, constructed, cultural, and political. It is neither objective nor neutral.

If you were to ask me to do something for you, i would happily oblige if i were intrigued, respected you, loved you, or simply had nothing better to do. I may have many reasons to do this, not the least of which being that you asked me to help. I cannot of course, help you unconditionally. In both the sense that i cannot devote myself to you, since i do have my own life to live, and would often rather share my time with others. Paying me would in my case liberate some of my time, since what i give up for a living elsewhere is, in its manifestation, as disconnected or connected to the foundations of my life as i conceive it, as what i would be doing for you. If however you were asking me to do what i would otherwise be doing for free, then i would do it for free (cet. par.).

So, the more I ask for, or the more you pay me, the more it is likely that i don’t want to be doing what it is you’re asking of me, or, the more i have been committed to doing things in my life that put me in this position (e.g. schooling) rather than another one that might have been more of my choosing or more “me”. So those who garner more pay are those who least do what they want or are meant to, to the point that perhaps, since they claim it is what they want, and since they are so rewarded, that they confuse who they are with who they might be, were the circumstances different, were the choices less absurd. These doppelgangers of the disenfranchised have been confused for strangers. It is at them that development must be directed! Just kidding. As it is well known in better-to-do circles, development is the cutting-edge of colonialism. Rather, to be fair, we ought to be their allies. And insofar as we are of the upper classes, so are we entitled to allies in our struggle to free ourselves of that which chains us to privilege. It is a struggle akin to that of our oppressed siblings. Just as they are oppressed, we are repressed. Well, they’re a bit repressed too. Top and bottom is a complicated affair in an orgy. Just as men are also losers in the patriarchal gender structure, so are the rich in the capitalist class complex. Seeing the capital-free as such, how could we not encourage them in their struggle, and how could we begrudge their outreached hands, stuffed in puppets.

Some will say that they prefer their better-paying jobs over the crappy jobs they’ve had over the years. And I myself prefer world peace. It’s quite remarkable how much it is taken for granted that one must be employed at all cost, however little. On my income, the little you give up seems like a hell of a lot. After giving up so much, i have a hard time giving more, no matter how little. It’s a matter of principle. I never really understood that. But here I am saying it.

At the end of the day, the only way to make money disproportionately, if you do not have a disproportionate amount to begin with, is to take it. Taking differs from stealing or competing in that it results in redistributing resources, value, commitment. It is akin to selling nothing, poverty, literally, at a premium.

Let’s remember that my commitment is not worth as much as another’s because those that can give either of us credit don’t believe that my doing what i do contributes to their garnering as much commitment as possible beyond what they themselves can commit (cet. par.) – what those things are, i haven’t the faintest clue.

For the time being, make a living while valuing the invaluable.

_____

An obvious contradiction: in practice, JS Mill observes, the crappier jobs are the least well paid. Or, to be more accurate, those least best paid are considered the crappiest. In any case, wouldn’t this imply that the value of the labour(er) does not determine the value of the job (what it pays), as much as that of the job calls on relevantly valued labour. So the value attributed to a person’s time is determined before marketization. The value of labour reflects, and not only constructs, social division in terms of extent or whatever. …

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