måndag 28 april 2008

What's it worth? Wealth and Value

I sold my old Apple Mac yesterday. I was sorry to see it go as it is likely to become a classic collectors' piece, but I had stopped using it and havn't got the space. I had only a vague idea what it was worth. When they were new they were around £1,200. I got it for £300 and must have spent another £150 on memory and things, so at £190, I was only getting back less than half my money back. In a few years' time it could be worth a lot more. So what was it really worth? That is easily answered. At the time and place it was sold for, its value was the price at which the exchange actually took place.

Now this has an important bearing on the study of economics in a broader context, since the concepts of wealth and value are key. Yet, seemingly, there are no set and agreed definitions, which could explain why economic problems are seemingly intractable. The other day I turned up a book which examined the matter, and included a summary of what the nineteenth century American economist Henrry George had to say on the subject. I will have a look at this and try to summarise what was said.

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