Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Notes for Time as (Formalized) Value in Use

This summer I've been enjoying "The Growth of Economic Thought", by Henry William Spiegel. The text begins in biblical times, and covers some basics for history of economic thought, up to the latter part of the 20th century. Surprisingly, I was nearly 200 pages in, before coming across an interesting passage which compelled me to follow through with my own thoughts.

John Law lived from 1671 to 1729. While he is oft remembered for his financial misadventures, his contributions to economic thought, weren't quite so controversial. Spiegel explains John Law's analysis of economic value:
Aristotle had distinguished between the use and the exchange of a good. This distinction Law expands, and like the classical economists later, he distinguishes between value in use and value in exchange. The classics, however, who adhered to a labor theory of value, developed only the theory of exchange value and discarded the concept of use value as soon as they had mentioned it. Law, on the other hand, combined both use and exchange value in a subjective theory that explains the exchange value of a good in terms of its usefulness and scarcity. Goods have value because they are useful, but how much value they have is determined by "the greater or lesser quantity [supply] of them in proportion to the demand of them. " In the same manner, changes in demand and supply account for changes in the value of goods...To Law, all economic values are subjective and in this sense imaginary, derived as they are from use.
Of course, today we live in a value in exchange world, in which knowledge/time based product is presented to the public via costs that aren't subjective or imaginary! Since time based service product has been indirectly coordinated thus far (price coordination initially takes place between total monetary representation, not finite time aggregates) utility for time based product remains externally defined. Whereas "staying in the game" for tradable goods manufacture, includes - at minimum - a response to subjective opinions.

Firm pricing for time based product, while understandable - given the broader spontaneous coordination it makes possible - leaves little room for subjective appraisals to contribute to economic outcomes. Yet this is not just a problem for one's pragmatic or experiential preferences. After all, the present tight money circumstance of general equilibrium conditions, can only extend "concrete" exchange valuations, so far. How does all of society commit to a value in exchange framework, if its asset formation and terms of participation are limited at the outset?

Fortunately, time arbitrage could provide as a value in use option, for those who need a more subjective approach to time value. Just as the productive value of work has become more subjective than the labour expectations of recent centuries, so too, the preferences of time commitments in the workplace.

A new institution is needed, which can restore and formalize the value in use function for personal and group time priorities. By allowing time to function in a recognizable supply and demand framework (for dispersal of knowledge and skill), all concerned could make more realistic appraisals of their time preferences in all areas of life. Time arbitrage could allow a different focus on time preferences, than what skills arbitrage often makes possible. In order to function as a true price (true supply and demand) for services , time would serve as a unit of measure, exchange, and account for the participating groups. Money also represents this time value, as a basic commodity and source of new wealth.

There are also legal contractual considerations, for knowledge, time and skill as a formalized value in use designation. Since time is the coordination point instead of money, these services would not have a recognizable market price. Consequently, this form of arbitrage would not be confused as "being on offer" for populations in general. After all, these services are not value in exchange, but instead represent an option to maintain a wider range of human capital potential, via sustainable means.

Again, what is being arbitraged in these instances is not skill, but time. This approach could also preserve the integrity and monetary value, of the "value in exchange" professionals who might choose to assist these groups - especially in their startup efforts. Last but certainly not least: it's important to have time arbitrage as an option - not something to be imposed on anyone who does not find this a well suited approach for their preferred work habits and aspirations.

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