​What is meant by “Value of a tangible good?”


One of the great departed souls, Richard Feynman, is said to have remarked,

I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.

It may sound as platitude to a few, but the repeated demonstration of people’s irresistible tendency to be content with merely knowing the name of something and a passion for merely swallowing the jargon that be, is something which makes this quote immortal.

In any case, let’s get our matter straight.

What do we mean by value of a tangible good?

Value of a tangible good is the importance we humans, real flesh and blood humans, place on the good . Value is a conception of human mind just as morality, immorality, justice et cetera are conception of human mind.They have no independent existence of their own.There’s NO such thing as intrinsic value of a tangible good.

As a matter of fact, “intrinsic value of a tangible good” belongs to a category of statements that are syntactically sound but semantically empty like the statement “ Colorless green ideas sleep furiously. ” (Briefly hold the cursor over the link for a reference. Always a good idea to do so.)

Why do I say so?

It’s very easy to deduce the above mentioned proposition from the definition of value I stated in the beginning. Value arises from the importance we humans place on goods. Since different humans place different importance to the same good, value of a tangible good belongs to subjective realm, and it’s silly to think of goods themselves having any value independent of human perception.

How do we express the value of a tangible good?

When we are willing to trade a good which we value, we express it’s value in terms of it’s price which is nothing but the reflection of mutual importance which the contracting parties place on it. Someone else might trade it for a different price owing to the difference of importance placed by him on the good.

The price discussed above is called the “market value” of a good.

When we aren’t willing to trade the good,it’s not that the value  of it doesn’t exist.It does exist, but the value remains simply confined in our minds instead of being expressed in terms of prices.

There’s NOTHING intrinsic in goods themselves which makes them possess value of their own.

Econ101 : Same good has different values for different people at different times and in different circumstances.

Let’s recall an episode from Ramayana. When Hanumanji was gifted jewelry made of precious stones in the courtroom, he threw it off as a worthless piece, arguing that such an object had no value to him because the subject of his worship, Sri Rama, was missing from it. For many others, that same piece of jewelry was of value and they were quite willing to trade it for something or the other, given the chance, depending on the importance, which each of them respectively placed in their conscience.

People sometimes mistake properties of a good for it’s intrinsic value.For instance, one of the property of potable water is quenching our thirst.But whether potable water has any value at any given moment depends on whether we are thirsty or not, whether we place importance on it or not. If we are fasting, as in Ramadan, it has no value for us during the fasting hours.At other hours, it has value for us. Water has value precisely because it is important for us humans, namely, for our sustenance. And that importance happens to be recurring and permanent till our departure to heaven or hell.Whenever our necessities and therefore importance of water varies, it’s value at various instances also vary.

The same extends to our romantic life. Suppose, for example, Joe estimates his value from the importance Josephine, his wife, places on him. The easiest way to paralyze Joe is for Josephine to show that she places little or no importance on him, whatsoever, and he will tend to devalue himself based on his wife’s perception. When you say Joe has an intrinsic value, namely the value placed by Joe on himself, you are unnecessarily giving Joe airs assuming him to be an inerrant estimator of his own value.

Some people hint that intrinsic value of a good results out of the factor costs involved, but that is again a fallacy.Let’s say you built a magnificent ship by putting millions into it, which carries no aesthetic value to you and which no one wants or no one is even willing to look at.

Will it have any value for any being ?

To conclude and state answer to the question posted yesterday, there’s indeed a difference between “intrinsic value” of a tangible good and “market value” of a tangible good.While the former is an unintelligible concept, the latter is veritable in our naked realms.

Next time.

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