Friday, July 16, 2021

THE VALUE OF EVERYTHING

 Price and Value seem almost like synonyms.  Mariana Mazzucato feels there have been distortions that are not in our best interests.   Spotted her on Steve Paikin with a new book.  Previously learned of her first book on the same show:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/07/the-entreprenurial-state.html

What the market determines is the price of any commodity is generally considered its value.  Mariana feels this is not always reliable.  As she points out once value was thought to be the time and effort required to produce an object, but as markets are imperfect prices and wages are often set by the powerful and paid by the weak.

There is a lot more meat in the book than I can convey in a short post, but below are some random thoughts gleaned.

Gold was considered value and that anything could be valued by how much gold could be exchanged.  Spain brought back huge amounts of gold stolen from the New World, but in reality did not make Spain more productive.

Conservatives feel government is an impediment to business, perhaps because they are focused on profits more than the environment they help create.  Productivity has increased since the 1960's in industrial countries, but the standard of living for most has not improved as much. 

Financialization has crept into our economy, not only through expansion of financial institutions, but also by the productive sector.   For example Ford in the 2000s made more money from selling loans to buy cars than from selling the actual cars.  

Another practice that distorts value is the practice of buying back shares which in effect increase price of shares, but without putting money into production.  Too often other stakeholders, such as employees, municipalities and taxpayers receive at best secondary consideration, even though they are crucial to the economy.

John Maynard Keynes is one who understood that the government is the spender of last resort.  He advocated for more spending (even it means borrowing) during economic down times, while in "normal" times to accumulate surpluses for the inevitable downturns.    More information on his thinking:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2012/04/book-on-john-maynard-keynes.html

One sobering thought: if you find something free online, you are not the customer, you are the product.  A closing thought from the author: "The question of growth must thus focus less on the rate of growth and more on its direction."

The thinking expressed in this book should be of concern to everyone concerned about the future.  What do you value?

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