Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Value Systems

Intrinsic Value

It’s an interesting concept. The idea that something has value just by being itself is an intriguing one. For example, a dollar bill has no intrinsic value. It only has value as it represents gold. Well.... Actually that used to be the case. Unfortunately we out-printed our gold supply many a moon ago. But gold itself would have intrinsic value as the true source of wealth.

But hold the phone.

Why would gold have intrinsic value? Isn’t its value only based on the fact that we have deemed it to be currency? I suppose there is some intrinsic value because it can be crafted into attractive objects and it doesn’t tarnish over time, but as far as rocks go, it’s pretty heavy and doesn’t skip very well on water. And there’s not really enough to pave our non-heavenly streets with it. I’m gonna say that its value really lies in the fact that we’ve decided it’s valuable. And the aforementioned artistic and fashionable components of course. I will allow for its intrinsic value for those ends, but not as currency. The rarity of it also plays a component, but rarity alone doesn’t define value. If that were so, our endangered species list would be shorter.

And let’s not even get started on the intrinsic value of credit cards.

All of this came up in my mind because my wife and I just recently received a box of antique vases from a relative. Call me what you will, but vases themselves hold little to no value for me. I like the flowers well enough, but for all I care they can be in an empty pickle jar. It turns out that some of these vases are valuable antiques. Apparently some of these vases are worth something. I do see how the value of the object can be in the memory, or the personal attachment to a person who the object reminds you of, but I see little intrinsic value here. And for all you robbers, these vases aren’t worth enough to be worth your trouble. So quit with all the robbing!

So why should an object hold intrinsic value?

How about the fact that it truly provides value just by being itself?

For example – A tree.

Now, please don’t misunderstand and imagine me wearing my fig leaf poncho, living in a tree for a year so that it isn’t cut down by a paper company.

I like paper after all, and look terrible in fig leaves.

A tree though, does have immense intrinsic value. It provides value by providing oxygen, providing shade, creating a wind block, preventing erosion, providing sustenance, providing habitats for wildlife, providing paper and building supplies(though this is something of a final act for the tree), and the list goes on and on. So there is a tremendous intrinsic value, but you can buy a tree for very little money.

While money doesn’t grow on trees, trees themselves might actually be the greater commodity from a true intrinsic value standpoint. Trees are just an example. I’m sure you have your own items of intense intrinsic value.

Lately I keep returning to the thought (as mentioned in previous blog posts) that one day all this nonsense is gonna crash and when it does our entire value system will be restructured. Cash will be good for kindling and not much else. Gold will be good for... well... not much really. Credit cards... well I suppose they could help you break into your neighbor’s house to see if they left any beer behind. I’ve seen that work on TV before. You could even drink it out of their antique vases, if they have any.

Kind of rambling now.

Just thinking about these things and wondering if value doesn’t really go well beyond the eye of the beholder. Value seems to be driven by much bigger factors than any one individual can influence.

So... until the crash happens and the world goes caveman, plant a tree and enjoy some shade.


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