Saturday, July 16, 2016

Is Time Based Product Amenable to Value in Exchange?

It's difficult to know for certain. All the more so, during periods of economic stagnation, when time based product - as a secondary component of market formation - distorts the tradable sectors which directly coordinate prices, supply and demand, and output. When a slow growth economy is services dominated, and merit based compensation is the only means to provide time based product, this can limit all output in aggregate, as services gradually become limited in their turn as well. As this process continues, populations become less able to support the tradable sectors which generate the initial revenue for non tradable sector formation.

Fortunately, the time arbitrage of knowledge use systems would make time based product more amenable to value in exchange capacity. Presently, the growth limitations of asymmetrically compensated time based product, remain hidden in ongoing struggles which often appear as though austerity, versus the roles of fiscal and monetary policy for long term growth. I was reminded of the validity of the post title question, after reading this from David Ricardo:
In speaking, then, of commodities, of their exchangeable value, and of the laws which regulate their relative prices we mean always such commodities only as can be increased in quantity by the exertion of human industry, and on the production of which competition operates without restraint.
What is problematic about time based product in its present formation? Unlike the time value associated with tradable goods, when high quality investment is a central component of time based product, the investment does not increase the quantity of time based product available to the marketplace. Human exertion increases the value of time based product, but not the quantity of product as in tradable sectors which would otherwise generate further revenue to compensate additional resources utilized in relation to time value.

Lacking a sufficient quantity of time based product, multiple institutions end up paying for increased investment in skills capacity, as indeed as occurred for the array of institutions which now pay for healthcare, in addition to the consumer. Growing budgetary restraints in this regard, also account for the fact that automation will gradually begin to substitute even for skills at the highest levels, as it becomes more difficult for budgets to meet sufficient asymmetric compensation for vital skills sets.

Marketplace representation of time based product exists solely in relation to itself (i.e. the potential reciprocity of time aggregates), which is why time based services are not amenable to the same direct coordination that money provides for other forms of resources. While money can partially coordinate prices for time based product, it cannot do so as a first order process, given the secondary nature of time based services in the marketplace. Other resource relationships are more capable of providing clear price signals for large scale coordination processes. So long as finished product exists separately from time value, money captures the relationship between both resource availability (scarce or not) and also the ways in which time value affects a given product.

Healthcare - for example - would only reflect value in exchange in purely monetary terms if it were completely automated. However, time arbitrage could preserve sought after human activity, by providing a value in use function for healthcare time investment, which allows time based healthcare product to approximate a value in exchange framework. The "catch"?  Value in exchange in this instance, would be a result of coordinated product in terms of time, rather than price. Why would such a strategy even be worth pursuing? Is that really economic? Let's pick up Ricardo's discussion regarding value, from the above quote:
In the early stages of society, the exchangeable value of these commodities, or the rule which determines how much of one shall be given in exchange for another, depends almost exclusively on the comparative quantity of labor expended in each. 
"The real price of everything," says Adam Smith, "what everything really costs to the man who wants to acquire it,  is the toil and trouble of acquiring it"..."Labor was the first price - the original purchase-money that was paid for all things." Again, "in that early and rude state of society which precedes both the accumulation of stock and the appropriation of land, the proportion between the quantities of labor necessary for acquiring different objects seems to be the only circumstance which can afford any rule for exchanging them with one another."
Today, healthcare is still paid for according to the original price of labor - i.e. the amount of labor that is actually required in total for an individual to present a product. It's fair to suggest that healthcare remained in the "primitive state", in terms of labor compensation, as contrast with the labor associated with tradable sectors.

Granted, it makes sense to compensate a physician for the extensive investments taken in order just to practice. However, if the value of the physician's time based product were equivalent to that of a tradable good, it would be as though - instead of paying the price of a toaster in today's terms which means good deflation benefits from divisions of labor and organizational capacity  - the product is instead compensated in consideration of the fact one person undertook this vast investment process, alone. It would be like paying someone to build a toaster who had to seek out each piece and assemble the whole toaster, again, alone.

Presently, a physician's time investments cannot be tapped as sustainable revenue to compensate him or her during the course of early learning processes. Which makes it necessary for the physician to demand "more" when the time finally comes, in terms of monetary compensation. This effect is also an increase in one's time value in relation to the time value of others. The relative differences in time investment, force down the aggregate time value of those who did not need the same extensive dedication to time investment in order to accomplish various tasks and endeavor. In many instances it is possible for individuals make up differences according to access to other forms of resource capacity, but even this strategy has proven inadequate for healthcare as a marketplace.

When institutions have to share the expenses of deferred compensation for a physician's time investment, they have more incentive over time, to prefer automation which would make it less necessary for them to pay for that level of expense. Hence a physician's time becomes as vulnerable to automation (in aggregate), as the asymmetric compensation of a low skill maintenance worker.

Lifelong education for knowledge use is important. The problem for all of us, is that we make one another wait till an arbitrary point in learning processes, before many of us can ever offer sets of services skills to one another. This process imposes unnecessary expenses on all concerned, and detracts from other resource use potential as well.

No one wants their doctor to know "less" in any relative sense, especially when it's a matter of life and death. That's why multiple institutions have been willing till now, to pay what has been deemed absolutely necessary. But what happens when supply and budgets alike simply become too constrained for this process? It is possible to continuously reinforce (compensate) important skills sets along the entire continuum, through peer to peer sharing of knowledge use and application.

Instead of presenting a barrier for long term government budgets, the time investments of time arbitrage would become a stepping stone process of incremental growth for all concerned. Knowledge acquisition would serve as both investment and compensation, simultaneously. Time arbitrage could eventually put the knowledge use of non tradable sectors on a more sustainable wealth creation path. One that is more amenable to time use as a value in exchange process.

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