Friday, October 17, 2003

Carl Menger and the Nature of Value

Gene Callahan writes in the Mises Daily Article on Carl Menger and the Subjective Theory of Value:

"Menger's breakthrough insight was to realize that "[v]alue is… nothing inherent in goods, no property of them, but merely the importance that we first attribute to the satisfaction of our needs... and in consequence carry over to economic goods as the… causes of the satisfaction of our needs." (Principles of Economics)

In other words, value is the name of an attitude or disposition that a particular person adopts toward a good: he chooses to value it. Although Menger set economics on the path to a correct theory of value in 1871, ancient errors die hard. We can still find many erroneous conceptions of value in contemporary discussions of economic issues.

For example, it is quite common to refer to money (or gold, or financial assets) as a "store of value." But an attitude cannot be stored! You cannot pour some of your attitude towards goods into a bar of gold, put it in a vault, and hope it "keeps." You can, of course, store the gold bar. And you will certainly hope that when you decide to take it from the vault and sell it, that others will choose to value it as well. But only the gold was stored."

  • Read the Complete Article @ Mises.org
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