"Zen teaches nothing; it merely enables us to wake up and become aware. It does not teach, it points." ~D.T. Suzuki

Monday, October 14, 2013

Natural Values

or For What It's Worth
Natural Values

For What It's Worth

It is the greatest truth of our age:
Information is not knowledge.
Caleb Carr
"The means by which we live have out distanced the ends for which we live.
Our scientific power has out run our spiritual power.
We have guided missiles and misguided men."
Martin Luther King Jr
Will The Rigid Model Of Our Success Be The Cause Of Our Own Extinction?
Will We Find A Metaphysical Solution?

Has Our Technology Over Run Our Wisdom?

Since that old campfire over one million years ago (see Hominid Innovation), fire has made a good metaphor for our gift of intellect... illuminated or enlightened, we have learned a lot about a lot of things. A great many answers to "What?" Have we always been wise about only focusing on what? Then what about who, when, where, why and how we use our knowledge? A blade or a laser can be used as either a weapon or a healing tool. Easily sequenced DNA can help cure disease or it can lead to GATTACA. Ultimately it seems it is the wisdom of the wielder who decides, not the technology that determines how or why it is used. But apparently we are technologically inclined by nature. The latest research indicates we developed our digital dexterity before bipedalism. The research information for this comes from examining primate brain development. Dexterity not only demands motor skills, but a degree of intellect as well if used for technology. Our survival depends upon it. We value it a great deal. And speaking of value, perhaps if we pay a little more attention to our natural values, they can guide our nature more wisely. The sticking point, is wisdom. And... wisdom isn't the same thing as knowledge. You won't get it from a teacher, or cleric. No doctrine, dogma, media, internet or book can give it to you.

It is a self-realization. No authority but yourself can help you with this.

Today, many, many millennia since the days when our lineage gained fire, where is the wisdom in those that bear the name sapiens? Once our ancestors gained the knowledge of the use of fire, a technology that gave us a tremendous advantage, we continued to successfully hunt, to herd and we learned to farm. The abundance of farming gave rise to settlement, instead of movement and city-states became a center for exchanging wealth and knowledge. We learned to do things differently, efficiently. Eventually, very efficiently. Even killing each other, and every thing else on this planet. Our abundance of information now makes civilization and everything else possible. But have we used this headlong rush into information wisely? Is new or more, always better? And if you can do something, does that always mean you should do it? Is there no time for consciousness anymore? How often now do we reflect on what is best?
Or even reflect on our definition of best? The answer to that will not always be economic.
Value in Use
Value in Exchange

In "An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations", Adam Smith notes the differences in the concepts of value in use and value in exchange:

"What are the rules which men naturally observe in exchanging them [goods] for money or for one another, I shall now proceed to examine. These rules determine what may be called the relative or exchangeable value of goods. The word VALUE, it is to be observed, has two different meanings, and sometimes expresses the utility of some particular object, and sometimes the power of purchasing other goods which the possession of that object conveys. The one may be called "value in use;" the other, "value in exchange." The things which have the greatest value in use have frequently little or no value in exchange; on the contrary, those which have the greatest value in exchange have frequently little or no value in use. Nothing is more useful than water: but it will purchase scarce anything; scarce anything can be had in exchange for it. A diamond, on the contrary, has scarce any use-value; but a very great quantity of other goods may frequently be had in exchange for it."

That was the paradox he presented. "The real price of every thing, what every thing really costs to the man who wants to acquire it, is the toil and trouble of acquiring it." Thus Smith disconnects the relationship between price and utility. In his view, price was a matter related to production and not the consumer. The labor theory of value took this as the resolution of the paradox of the diamonds and water.

The labor theory of value however has since fallen by the way side in favor of the theory of marginal utility. We'll see if this really is a better measure of value, that is, if there is any virtue in it. Or if it too, will eventually prove to be of marginal utility itself. Perhaps a mix of labor and marginal utility is more in order.

Another paradox appears... 

There is one thing that increases with use...

The use of wisdom does not diminish it.

It can only ever add value.
Markets Must Have Moral Values

Adam Smith said so himself in his first book, the frame for the second on capitalism. In order to decide what money should and should not be able to buy, we have to decide what values should govern various aspects of social and civic life.
A market, "agora", is an assembly of people.
Markets have a place but it's not necessarily in hospitals, daycare centers, schools, or families.
In a society where everything is for sale, money can be used for political influence, superior medical care,
safe neighborhoods, access to elite schools,
and even the right to cut in line.
Making certain things in life a commodity can corrupt those things themselves. Markets are not value-free. They are not some frigging invisible hand. They are people. On the contrary to the machine model, they don’t just allocate and consume goods, they express, promote and imbue them with certain human values... with every intercourse, with every exchange. Money is a secondary movitator, food is a primary one.

Wisdom will tell you, you can't eat money.

Perhaps it is the values that bear greater scrutiny. Not societal values, not market values, yours... Own them!
Value is not based upon cost but that costs are paid because of value.
Nothing But Flowers
Talking Heads
© 2013 MU-Peter Shimon

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