Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Who creates your value?

Here's that letter I wrote to the Oklahoma Gazette, in response to the letter by Brett Thomasson in last week's edition. My letter has been printed in this week's - July 22nd - edition.

While I find much to agree with in Brett Thomasson's letter ("'Free' advice") in the July 15, 2009 Oklahoma Gazette, I do take exception with his assertion that Matt Zitterkob is more dependent on capitalism "as a parasite than as the low-level worker he was before, since he now contributes nothing to society."

A person's capacity to support himself has nothing to do with his "contributions to society". Such an idea fosters the impression that your value is somehow tied to or ultimately determined by society, leading to the notion that "society owes me" - which leads to such ideas as "freeganism" and "urban foraging" in the first place.

Supporting yourself by productive work, on the other hand, is an expression of your capacity to uphold your own value - which is bestowed upon you, not by society, but by your own judgement. While capitalism recognizes that a free society makes it possible for people to trade their efforts for the values they need to sustain their lives - and to determine for themselves the terms of that trade, including price - productive work to create those values would be required to survive even if you were alone on a deserted island. For if your food could not be "foraged" in such a place, then it would have to hunted or grown before you could eat it.

That is, it would have to be created by your own effort. And not merely physical effort, but thought as well.

Rob Abiera
Oklahoma City
I didn't come up with the title "Food for thought", the editors at the Gazette did. But it strikes me that it conveys one of the main points of my letter perfectly: thought is required to create food, and thought is the 'coin' which pays for the food - the thought required to choose the specific physical efforts which will result in the production of the food. In a very real sense, one does trade thought, itself, for food.

So: "food for thought", indeed!


  1. I liked your LTE main because it echoes my own thought with respect to effort. I see the label 'effort' to be under-used yet as a concept, it describes more fully what we deserve, what we are entitled to, what we 'are', than anything else.
    Especially I see that a full understanding of, "Owning one's effort" as spelling the end for socialization of the world.

  2. And altruism prevents one from "owning one's effort". Yet another reason why it is morality that is at the root of the problem more than anything else.