Work and Wealth: A Human Valuation

Work and Wealth: A Human Valuation

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Work and Wealth: A Human Valuation

Work and Wealth: A Human Valuation

Read FREE!

Excerpt

The goods and services that constitute our national income are valued severally and collectively with a fair amount of accuracy in terms of money. For a gold standard, though by no means perfect for the work of monetary measurement, is stable and has a single definite meaning to all men. By means of it we can estimate the rates of growth or decline in our industry, as an aggregate or in its several departments, and the quantities of output and consumption of the various products. We can compare the growth of our national wealth with that of other nations.

But how far can these measurements of concrete wealth furnish reliable information regarding the vital values, the human welfare, which all economic processes are designed to yield? Though it will be generally admitted that every increase of economic wealth is in some measure conducive to welfare, every decrease to illfare, nobody will pretend even approximately to declare what that measure is, or to lay down any explicit rules relating wealth to welfare, either for an individual or a nation. Indeed, even the general assumption that every growth of wealth enhances welfare cannot be admitted without qualification. An injurious excess of income is possible for an individual, perhaps for a nation, and the national welfare which an increased volume of wealth seems capable of yielding might be more than cancelled by a distribution which bestowed upon a few an increased share of the larger wealth, or by an aggravation of the toil of the producers.

Such obvious considerations drive us to seek some intelligible and consistent method of human valuation for economic goods and processes. To find a standard of human welfare as stable and as generally acceptable as the monetary standard is manifestly impossible. Indeed, the difficulties attending any sort of calculus of vital values might appear insuperable, were it not for one reflection. Every statesman, social reformer, philan-

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