Value and Values
What is value?
When considering value from an economic perspective, we can look at the perspectives of a range of influential economic thinkers.
Economic value is measured by the benefit provided by a good or a service to a person or organisation that produces, buys, or sells. Value is often linked to price through an exchange of money between buyers and sellers.
The “paradox of value”, or the diamond-water paradox, has been recognised by thinkers as early as Plato. This paradox suggests that water is essential for life and therefore should demand a higher price than diamonds. However, this is at odds with what is observed. Water is clearly more valuable to a thirsty person than diamonds, but diamonds are more valuable to a non-thirsty person than water. To solve the paradox, we have to look at the specific water/diamonds in question, not total water or diamonds. This solution represented an important development in economic science during the late 19th century, known as the marginal revolution.
Austrian economist, Ludwig Von Mises, said about value, “To prefer and to set aside, and the choices and decisions in which they result, are not acts of measurement. Action does not measure utility or value; it chooses between alternatives”. In Mises view, value is felt and there is no mechanism to meaningfully attach a number to it. So someone can say they like peanut butter more than marmite, but they can’t convey any additional information by saying they like peanut butter 10 and marmite 4. In this way, value is subjective.
More recently, Australian economist, Steve Keen, claims "value" is "the innate worth of a commodity, which determines the normal ratio at which two commodities exchange”. In this example, value is calculable, determined by the sum of the cost of all the resources that went into producing a good or service.
Economic theory has an array of viewpoints on what economic value is, but what about values?
What about values?
Values are the central feature of any culture. Cultural values are reflected in how people work, raise families, consider acceptable social behaviours, and in what people regard as status symbols and who they view as role models.
Differences in cultural values can be seen in differing societal world views, such as:
- Individualist versus collectivist - I versus we
- High versus low power distance – Societies with social classes value social mobility more than egalitarian societies
- Being versus doing – Differing approaches to time (circular or linear) and urgency (low sense or high sense)
- Indulgence versus restraint – Prioritising personal enjoyment (hedonism) or adhering to social norms.
For Māori, values are embedded in te reo me ona tikanga (the Māori language and its cultural customs), and are woven through the fabric of Māori society. These values can also be seen in the public and private sector, in particular, in the operations of Māori entities. These values include:
- Kotahitanga – Unity, a shared sense of belonging
- Tino rangatiratanga – Self-determination, ownership, control
- Whanaungatanga – Valuing relationships
- Kaitiakitanga – Stewardship of natural resources
- Manaakitanga – Hospitality, generosity, and care.
Tom Bilyeu, founder of Impact Theory, considers your values to be those things you believe to be true and which guide your actions in the world. So you choose your values, and act in accordance with them. This theory in itself is a reflection of a particular cultural worldview about values.
What does value have to do with values?
Value is frequently contrasted with values as though they are conflicting and irreconcilable forces. But organisations function inside societies that have values, and the people that produce goods and services for these organisations, at all levels, have values. These values contribute to the kaupapa, the culture, and the operations of organisations. People choose which organisations to work or volunteer for, to support or invest in, and buy from and supply, based on their organisational values.
Value and values are also very similar to the extent that they both reflect what is important to people. In Te Ao Māori, waterways have value even if they are not used for drinking, irrigation, fishing, or travel, because they have mauri (vital life force) and the water itself is a taonga (treasured possession).
Even the Companies Act 1993 talks about the “value of the company as a means of achieving economic and social benefits through the aggregation of capital for productive purposes”, not just financial outputs.
Where to next?
We’re interested in people’s views on whether there’s a difference between value and values, and what it means in different organisations. In particular, we’re curious about what it means to be values-driven and kaupapa-led.
Our high level questions are:
- How do entities measure value and their contribution?
- How do they communicate value?
- What does value mean when you’re a kaitiaki of people and resources?
We will be delving into value with contributions from thought leaders around Aotearoa in a webinar, podcast kōrero, and a guest website article.
Our thought leaders on value
Podcast – Ronji Tanielu
Ronji Tanielu, married to Rabena, is of Samoan/Tokelauan heritage, born in Apia Samoa and raised in the Capital of the Universe, Mangere, South Auckland. Ronji and Rabena returned to NZ after spending two years overseas, serving as tentmaker (self-funded) Christian missionaries in over 30 countries, working with persecuted Christians, business as mission projects, sex trafficking and local orphanages.
Ronji works as a Lawyer and Advisor for the Social Policy and Parliamentary Unit of The Salvation Army, working in advocacy and policy around justice reform, addictions services, welfare reform, housing, youth and children and NGOs. Ronji would never call himself a researcher or academic. But Ronji’s job is to be as positively disruptive and troublesome as possible to politicians, bureaucrats, and other stakeholders. Viia le Atua i mea uma!
Webinar – Anjum Rahman
Anjum Rahman is the Project Lead of the Inclusive Aotearoa Collective Tāhono, an organising working on creating a stronger sense of belonging through connections and collaboration. She is a chartered accountant with over 25 years’ experience, working with a range of entities in the commercial, farming and not-for-profit sectors.
She also commits to various volunteer roles in the community. She was a founding member of the Islamic Women’s Council of New Zealand, an organisation formed in 1990 to bring Muslim women together and represent their concerns. She has also been a founding member and trustee of Shama, Ethnic Women’s Trust, which supports ethnic minority women through its social work service, life-skills classes and community development. She has worked in the area of sexual violence prevention both as a volunteer and as part of Government working groups. Anjum is a Trustee of Trust Waikato, a major funder in the Waikato Region.
Anjum has been an active member of the Waikato Interfaith Council for over a decade, a trustee of the Trust that governs Hamilton’s community access broadcaster, Free FM. She is a member of international committees around dealing with violent extremist content online, such as the Christchurch Call Advisory Network and the Global Internet Forum for Countering Terrorism.
Webinar – Dr Jason Mika
Dr Jason Mika is Tūhoe, Ngāti Awa, Whakatōhea, and Ngāti Kahungunu on his mother’s side and has French and Scottish ancestry on his father’s side. Jason was born in Whakatāne and raised in Rotorua, but now resides in Palmerston North. Jason is a senior lecturer at Massey University’s School of Management and a director of Te Au Rangahau, Massey Business School’s Māori business research centre.
Jason’s research, policy and practice focuses on understanding how indigeneity and entrepreneurship intersect in multiple sectors, scales and sites. Jason’s current research includes Māori agribusiness, Māori marine economy, Indigenous tourism, kaumātua entrepreneurship, genomic research of taonga species, Indigenous trade, and a Māori theory of value, all with a focus on Māori economy, enterprise and innovation. Jason’s work has been published in mainstream business journals and Indigenous journals.
Webinar – Jo Cribb
Jo Cribb is an experienced consultant who has led a variety of projects and assignments. Jo was the previous Chief Executive of the Ministry for Women. One of the youngest Chief Executives ever appointed in the New Zealand Public Service, she has invested her time and energy in advancing the cause of the vulnerable in society, spearheading some of the most difficult issues of our time, including child abuse, child poverty, family violence and vulnerable women.
She is regularly asked to facilitate strategy sessions with leadership teams, coach emerging leaders and lead substantial policy, strategy and gender projects. Formerly the Deputy Children's Commissioner and leader of the Commissioner's Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty, Jo is a director on a number of boards, including the New Zealand Media Council, Royal New Zealand Navy Leadership Board, Literacy Aotearoa, and CORE Education Ltd. She has a Doctorate in Public Policy that investigated the contracting relationship between governments and NGOs.
Guest article – Mark Pascal
Mark is passionate about all things decentralised / blockchain for common good. He is the founder of TheDAO.agency (a DAO based out of New Zealand providing a range of services in the Blockchain, decentralised governance and Decentralised Autonomous Organisation space) and one of the founding members of the Metacartel Venture DAO.
Some of Mark’s career highlights include running the first University course in the world on DAOs, bringing Vitalik Buterin and Andreas Antonopoulos over to NZ, co-founding Blockchainlabs, pollinator for the DAOStack Genesis DAO, and Executive Director of BlockchainNZ
He has been featured in Decentralized Thriving, has presented at a select committee hearing for the NZ government, and at over 40 conferences in 6 countries on decentralisation topics. Mark is currently hatching The Wellbeing Protocol (a project building micro-economies that align economic incentives with community wellbeing).
Podcast with Ronji Tanielu
We kōrero with Ronji Tanielu on what shaped his values and what it means to out-work your values in the world.
Guest article with Mark Pascall
We will have a guest website article by Mark Pascall.