Value (economics)

Last updated

In economics, economic value is a measure of the benefit provided by a good or service to an economic agent. It is generally measured relative to units of currency, and the interpretation is therefore "what is the maximum amount of money a specific actor is willing and able to pay for the good or service"?

Contents

Among the competing schools of economic theory there are differing theories of value.

Economic value is not the same as market price, nor is economic value the same thing as market value. If a consumer is willing to buy a good, it implies that the customer places a higher value on the good than the market price. The difference between the value to the consumer and the market price is called "consumer surplus". [1] It is easy to see situations where the actual value is considerably larger than the market price: purchase of drinking water is one example.

Overview

The economic value of a good or service has puzzled economists since the beginning of the discipline. First, economists tried to estimate the value of a good to an individual alone, and extend that definition to goods that can be exchanged. From this analysis came the concepts value in use and value in exchange.

Value is linked to price through the mechanism of exchange. When an economist observes an exchange, two important value functions are revealed: those of the buyer and seller. Just as the buyer reveals what he is willing to pay for a certain amount of a good, so too does the seller reveal what it costs him to give up the good.

Additional information about market value is obtained by the rate at which transactions occur, telling observers the extent to which the purchase of the good has value over time.

Said another way, value is how much a desired object or condition is worth relative to other objects or conditions. Economic values are expressed as "how much" of one desirable condition or commodity will, or would be given up in exchange for some other desired condition or commodity. Among the competing schools of economic theory there are differing metrics for value assessment and the metrics are the subject of a theory of value. Value theories are a large part of the differences and disagreements between the various schools of economic theory.

Explanations

In neoclassical economics, the value of an object or service is often seen as nothing but the price it would bring in an open and competitive market. This is determined primarily by the demand for the object relative to supply in a perfectly competitive market. Many neoclassical economic theories equate the value of a commodity with its price, whether the market is competitive or not. As such, everything is seen as a commodity and if there is no market to set a price then there is no economic value.

In classical economics, the value of an object or condition is the amount of discomfort/labor saved through the consumption or use of an object or condition (Labor Theory of Value). Though exchange value is recognized, economic value is not, in theory, dependent on the existence of a market and price and value are not seen as equal. This is complicated, however, by the efforts of classical economists to connect price and labor value. Karl Marx, for one, saw exchange value as the "form of appearance" [Erscheinungsform] of value, which implies that, although value is separate from exchange value, it is meaningless without the act of exchange, i.e., without a market.

In this tradition, Steve Keen makes the claim that "value" refers to "the innate worth of a commodity, which determines the normal ('equilibrium') ratio at which two commodities exchange." [2] To Keen and the tradition of David Ricardo, this corresponds to the classical concept of long-run cost-determined prices, what Adam Smith called "natural prices" and Karl Marx called "prices of production." It is part of a cost-of-production theory of value and price. Ricardo, but not Keen, used a "labor theory of price" in which a commodity's "innate worth" was the amount of labor needed to produce it.

"The value of a thing in any given time and place", according to Henry George, "is the largest amount of exertion that anyone will render in exchange for it. But as men always seek to gratify their desires with the least exertion this is the lowest amount for which a similar thing can otherwise be obtained." [3]

In another classical tradition, Marx distinguished between the "value in use" (use-value, what a commodity provides to its buyer), labor cost which he calls "value" (the socially-necessary labour time it embodies), and "exchange value" (how much labor-time the sale of the commodity can claim, Smith's "labor commanded" value). By most interpretations of his labor theory of value, Marx, like Ricardo, developed a "labor theory of price" where the point of analyzing value was to allow the calculation of relative prices. Others see values as part of his sociopolitical interpretation and critique of capitalism and other societies, and deny that it was intended to serve as a category of economics. According to a third interpretation, Marx aimed for a theory of the dynamics of price formation but did not complete it.

In 1860, John Ruskin published a critique of the economic concept of value from a moral point of view. He entitled the volume Unto This Last , and his central point was this: "It is impossible to conclude, of any given mass of acquired wealth, merely by the fact of its existence, whether it signifies good or evil to the nation in the midst of which it exists. Its real value depends on the moral sign attached to it, just as strictly as that of a mathematical quantity depends on the algebraic sign attached to it. Any given accumulation of commercial wealth may be indicative, on the one hand, of faithful industries, progressive energies, and productive ingenuities: or, on the other, it may be indicative of mortal luxury, merciless tyranny, ruinous chicanery." Gandhi was greatly inspired by Ruskin's book and published a paraphrase of it in 1908.[ non sequitur ]

Economists such as Ludwig von Mises asserted that "value" is a subjective judgment. Prices can only be determined by taking these subjective judgments into account, and that this is done through the price mechanism in the market. Thus, it was false to say that the economic value of a good was equal to what it cost to produce or to its current replacement cost.

Silvio Gesell denied value theory in economics. He thought that value theory is useless and prevents economics from becoming science and that a currency administration guided by value theory is doomed to sterility and inactivity. [4]

Connected concepts

The theory of value is closely related to that of allocative efficiency, the quality by which firms produce those goods and services most valued by society. The market value of a machine part, for example, will depend upon a variety of objective facts involving its efficiency versus the efficiency of other types of part or other types of machine to make the kind of products that consumers will value in turn. In such a case, market value has both objective and subjective components.

Economy, efficiency and effectiveness, often referred to as the "Three Es", may be used as complementary factors contributing to an assessment of the value for money provided by a purchase, project or activity. The UK National Audit Office uses the following summaries to explain the meaning of each term:

Sometimes a fourth 'E', equity, is also added. [5] [6]

In philosophy, economic value is a subcategory of a more general philosophical value, as defined in goodness and value theory or in the science of value.

Value or price Relative Prices of commonly valued items what is value%3F.jpg
Value or price

See also

Related Research Articles

In economics, factors of production, resources, or inputs are what is used in the production process to produce output—that is, finished goods and services. The utilized amounts of the various inputs determine the quantity of output according to the relationship called the production function. There are four basic resources or factors of production: land, labour, capital and entrepreneur. The factors are also frequently labeled "producer goods or services" to distinguish them from the goods or services purchased by consumers, which are frequently labeled "consumer goods".

The labor theory of value (LTV) is a theory of value that argues that the economic value of a good or service is determined by the total amount of "socially necessary labor" required to produce it.

Microeconomics Behavior of individuals and firms

Microeconomics is a branch of economics that studies the behavior of individuals and firms in making decisions regarding the allocation of scarce resources and the interactions among these individuals and firms.

Commodity Fungible item produced to satisfy wants or needs

In economics, a commodity is an economic good, usually a resource, that has full or substantial fungibility: that is, the market treats instances of the good as equivalent or nearly so with no regard to who produced them.

In an economic model, agents have a comparative advantage over others in producing a particular good if they can produce that good at a lower relative opportunity cost or autarky price, i.e. at a lower relative marginal cost prior to trade. Comparative advantage describes the economic reality of the work gains from trade for individuals, firms, or nations, which arise from differences in their factor endowments or technological progress..

Price amount of money given in order to purchase a thing or service

A price is the quantity of payment or compensation given by one party to another in return for one unit of goods or services. In some situation, the price of production has a different name. If the product is a "good" in the commercial exchange, the price of this product will likely to be called "price". However, if the product is "service", there will be other possible names for this product's name. For example, the graph on the bottom will show some situations A price is influenced by production costs, supply of the desired item, and demand for the product. A price may be determined by a monopolist or may be imposed on the firm by market conditions.

In 20th-century discussions of Karl Marx's economics, the transformation problem is the problem of finding a general rule by which to transform the "values" of commodities into the "competitive prices" of the marketplace. This problem was first introduced by Marx in chapter 9 of the draft of volume 3 of Capital, where he also sketched a solution. The essential difficulty was this: given that Marx derived profit, in the form of surplus value, from direct labour inputs, and that the ratio of direct labour input to capital input varied widely between commodities, how could he reconcile this with a tendency toward an average rate of profit on all capital invested among industries, if such a tendency exists?

In economics, the cost-of-production theory of value is the theory that the price of an object or condition is determined by the sum of the cost of the resources that went into making it. The cost can comprise any of the factors of production and taxation.

Commodity fetishism Concept in Marxist analysis

In Karl Marx's critique of political economy, commodity fetishism is the perception of certain relationships not as relationships among people, but as social relationships among things. As a form of reification, commodity fetishism perceives value as something that arises from and resides within the commodity goods themselves, and not from the series of interpersonal relations that produce the commodity and evolve its value.

Use value or value in use is a concept in classical political economy and Marxist economics. It refers to the tangible features of a commodity which can satisfy some human requirement, want or need, or which serves a useful purpose. In Karl Marx's critique of political economy, any product has a labor-value and a use-value, and if it is traded as a commodity in markets, it additionally has an exchange value, most often expressed as a money-price.

Exchange value Proportion of worth at which a commodity can be traded for other commodities

In political economy and especially Marxian economics, exchange value refers to one of four major attributes of a commodity, i.e., an item or service produced for, and sold on the market. The other three aspects are use value, economic value, and price. Thus, a commodity has:

A theory of value is any economic theory that attempts to explain the exchange value or price of goods and services. Key questions in economic theory include why goods and services are priced as they are, how the value of goods and services comes about, and—for normative value theories—how to calculate the correct price of goods and services.

Law of value

The law of the value of commodities, known simply as the law of value, is a central concept in Karl Marx's critique of political economy first expounded in his polemic The Poverty of Philosophy (1847) against Pierre-Joseph Proudhon with reference to David Ricardo's economics. Most generally, it refers to a regulative principle of the economic exchange of the products of human work, namely that the relative exchange-values of those products in trade, usually expressed by money-prices, are proportional to the average amounts of human labor-time which are currently socially necessary to produce them.

Prices of production

Prices of production is a concept in Karl Marx's critique of political economy, defined as "cost-price + average profit". A production price can be thought of as a type of supply price for products; it refers to the price levels at which newly produced goods and services would have to be sold by the producers, in order to reach a normal, average profit rate on the capital invested to produce the products.

Unequal exchange is used primarily in Marxist economics, but also in ecological economics, to denote forms of exploitation hidden in or underwriting trade. Originating, in the wake of the debate on the Singer–Prebisch thesis, as an explanation of the falling terms of trade for underdeveloped countries, the concept was coined in 1962 by the Greco-French economist Arghiri Emmanuel to denote an exchange taking place where the rate of profit has been internationally equalised, but wage-levels have not. It has since acquired a variety of meanings, often linked to other or older traditions which perhaps then raise claims to priority.

Market (economics) System in which parties engage in transactions according to supply and demand

A market is a composition of systems, institutions, procedures, social relations or infrastructures whereby parties engage in exchange. While parties may exchange goods and services by barter, most markets rely on sellers offering their goods or services to buyers in exchange for money. It can be said that a market is the process by which the prices of goods and services are established. Markets facilitate trade and enable the distribution and resource allocation in a society. Markets allow any trade-able item to be evaluated and priced. A market emerges more or less spontaneously or may be constructed deliberately by human interaction in order to enable the exchange of rights of services and goods. Markets generally supplant gift economies and are often held in place through rules and customs, such as a booth fee, competitive pricing, and source of goods for sale.

Commodity (Marxism) Something bought and sold as a result of labor value, in Marxist theory

In classical political economy and especially Karl Marx's critique of political economy, a commodity is any good or service produced by human labour and offered as a product for general sale on the market. Some other priced goods are also treated as commodities, e.g. human labor-power, works of art and natural resources, even though they may not be produced specifically for the market, or be non-reproducible goods.

Criticisms of the labor theory of value affect the historical concept of labor theory of value (LTV) which spans classical economics, liberal economics, Marxian economics, neo-Marxian economics, and anarchist economics. As an economic theory of value, LTV is central to Marxist social-political-economic theory and later gave birth to the concepts of labour exploitation and surplus value. LTV criticisms therefore often appear in the context of economic criticism, not only for the microeconomic theory of Marx but also for Marxism, according to which the working class is exploited under capitalism.

Constant capital

Constant capital (c), is a concept created by Karl Marx and used in Marxian political economy. It refers to one of the forms of capital invested in production, which contrasts with variable capital (v). The distinction between constant and variable refers to an aspect of the economic role of factors of production in creating a new value.

Marxian economics Heterodox school of economic thought; concerns crisis, surplus value, class, and others

Marxian economics, or the Marxian school of economics, is a heterodox school of political economic thought. Its foundations can be traced back to Marx critique of political economy. Marxian economics comprises several different theories and includes multiple schools of thought, which are sometimes opposed to each other, and in many cases Marxian analysis is used to complement or supplement other economic approaches. Because one does not necessarily have to be politically Marxist to be economically Marxian, the two adjectives coexist in usage rather than being synonymous. They share a semantic field while also allowing connotative and denotative differences.

References

  1. "Consumer Surplus" (PDF). p. 7-1, 7-2.
  2. Steve Keen Debunking Economics, New York, Zed Books (2001) p. 271, ISBN   1-86403-070-4, OCLC   45804669
  3. "The Science of Political Economy, Chapter 8". Politicaleconomy.org. Retrieved 2012-04-17.
  4. https://biblio.wiki/wiki/The_Natural_Economic_Order/Part_III/Chapter_3
  5. 1 2 National Audit Office, Assessing value for money, accessed 15 March 2019
  6. Jackson, P., Value for money and international development: Deconstructing myths to promote a more constructive discussion, OECD, May 2012