With all the issues that we are facing as a country in the current state of our economy, there arises an important discussion about the concept of value. Value is a word that many times gets used with no real thought to its meaning. Often when we talk about the concept of value we are referring to an intangible aspect of a material possession. We rarely have a conversation about houses, cars, and things without inquiring about the “value” of that specific thing. We tend to regard these things as having some sort of intrinsic value independent of human life.
I argue that human life is actually the only kind of value that exists. Therefore we must view the value of any one “thing” through the prism of the human life value.
Consider the example of a brand new beautiful Mazerati GranTurismo one of my all time favorite cars. On first view, you see a flawless metallic paint, an aerodynamic body with amazing curves. Under the hood you will find top of the line engineering that created a unique engine made for speed and performance. Exploring the inside, you are greeted with the smell of brand new leather in a gorgeous deep red that promises comfort and flash!
In talking about this amazing machine, you may ask yourself, “I wonder what that car is worth?” or even “I wonder what the value of that car is? “
I understand the information people are trying to garner in asking this type of question, but I think they are fundamentally asking the wrong question. What most people mean to ask is; “How much money are people willing to pay for this car?” The answer to that question is simply $130,000.00. However, the answer to the former question, “what is the value of the car?”, is more intriguing and pertinent to our discussion here. The answer is:
ZERO, ZILCH, NOTHING
Consider a few questions in conjunction with this idea.
-What if there were no humans left on earth to drive these beautiful cars?
-What if financial resources became so scarce that every person was having a difficult time working just to get enough food on the table?
-What if all of the human race decided that driving automobiles was no longer useful and that personal flight was the only way to commute.
I hope that these questions are revealing the idea I am trying to present. Things, of themselves, cannot hold value. Even those objects to which we attribute “intrinsic value” such as gold, have no value if the human element is eliminated. It was humans who first viewed glittering gold and decided that it was a source of value. They very well could have attributed the same value to sand instead and gold would have remained as worthless as it was before humans first discovered it. We decided that gold has value and so it is so. Without humans to build, appreciate, and exchange; “things” are worthless. All value is an extension of human life and existence. Things such as the Mazerati would not exist without the genius and ingenuity of mankind.
Man, however, has in him true “intrinsic” value, independent of what other men may dictate. A man’s value is not dependent on another man or group of men recognizing that value (though more often than not it is very recognizable, even if some men don’t choose to see it). God created mankind and He has said in a modern revelation, “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” So the life of every man woman and child (including the unborn child) has a value. But of how much value are we? Do we add value to those around us? Have we increased our own value? That is entirely up to us. Another unique characteristic of man that distinguishes him is his ability to increase his own value. The Mazerati cannot decide that it is valuable, but man can. By his thoughts, actions and very life, man determines of how much value he is. This applies in all aspects of our lives, but perhaps the most illustrative example can be found in the workplace:
Consider the business owner that has two employees that are hired on at the same wage. The first employee works for his paycheck and does only what is necessary to keep his job. His vision does not extend beyond himself. We all know employees of this nature as I would suggest that, unfortunately, these people make up the bulk of the workforce. These are the same ones that complain about the owner having more money than them while simultaneously doing nothing to increase their own position. They believe pay is a function of what they are entitled to, not what they earn. Now consider the second employee. This employee immediately sets out to work in ways that increase the earning potential of the business. He lifts and motivates those around them, because that compounds the earning potential of the business. This employee not only does his job, but he does more. He seeks more responsibility because that increases his value. He understands what the first employee doesn’t. He knows that if he increases the earning potential of the business, if he can increase the value of the business, then he has just increased his own value. Now when more revenue flows into the business, the business owner has the means to reward the employee that has helped make it possible. This employee understands that pay is only a function of what you have earned and you are entitled to nothing beyond that. When you add value, value is returned to you. The second employee sees beyond himself, the success of the business is a priority to him. He knows that if the business succeeds, then he succeeds. The first employee is completely expendable, the second is irreplaceable.
Is the second employee more valuable than the first? Absolutely. Both employees determined their own value, by what they did to add value to the company and consequently the business owner. Value added is value earned.
On this note, I am often puzzled by the mentality that the worker and owner are at odds with one another. The prevailing view, perpetuated by unions, is that the owners are out to squeeze the life out of every worker with the sole intent of fattening their own wallets. Beyond just the union leaders, this belief is held by many of those who make up the unions. These are those who share the mentality of our first employee in the above example. The respect of peers is earned by seeing how much one can get away with without getting caught, while working hard is often viewed derisively. They don’t seek to add value, so when value is not added to them they cry extortion. While all around them employees like the second one in our example are moving up and excelling. Unfortunately this view is the remaining residue of the Communistic era, whose slogan was “Workers of the World Unite!” How interesting that it is alive and well today, masquerading under a different name. But I digress.
So what is the point?
All our life we are taught to take care of things. We are also taught that this thing or that thing has so much value. However, Benjamin Franklin said; “I conceive that the great part of the miseries of mankind are brought upon them by false estimates they have made of the value of things.”
Lets bring the discussion back to the value of the human element and place the focus on increasing that value. In our previous post we discussed the phenomenon of condemning the rich for their possessions. In reality, their riches are merely an expression of their willingness to exchange some of their human life value, something we all possess, but are not always willing to exchange. And willingness is indeed the most appropriate word, because we all have the ability to add value no matter what circumstance we find ourselves in, and if we honestly seek to add value, we will have value returned.
I came across an excellent example of this in the philosophy of Wally the cab driver, read his story here.
Watch this video to see what Kyle knows about value: