The Six Great Myths
But with that out of the way, let me, in order to approach this subject of the positive side of the economic relationship, begin by mentioning the Six Great Myths(1)
that have underlain all economic theory since Adam Smith, and which, since they are presupposed as "obviously true" and are in fact false, have led to all sorts of erroneous conclusions, not only in capitalist economic theory, but also in Marxist and socialist economics generally.
The First Great Myth: All men are created equal.
We saw this in the preceding section, where I explained why it is a myth and not something true. Its economic impact comes in demands of "equal pay for equal work," which takes into account, as we will see, neither the unequal productivity with equal effort of the workers, nor the unequal disposable income of workers with unequal dependents; so that what sounds just and fair actually can cause injustice.
The Second Great Myth: We are never satisfied.
This is illustrated in the beginning of the Confessions of St. Augustine: "You have made us for Yourself, Master, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you." The assumption has always been that it is impossible to satisfy the human being (in spite of the fact that by far the majority of people, once they reach middle age, never choose to do anything about their "dissatisfaction"). This was, of course, made into a kind of biological law by Henri Bergson in Creative Evolution, and is a view which, as I said in Chapter 5 of Section 1 of the third part 3.1.5, is directly contrary to the evidence from living bodies and especially the mechanics of evolution itself. And, of course, the medievals made it a kind of pseudo-law of metaphysics when they said that the "purpose" of all of creation was God Himself, and everything was supposed to be a process somehow headed toward his perfection. I discussed this in Chapter 5 of Section 3 of the second part 2.3.5.
And we saw under Conclusion 4 of Section 4 of the third part 3.4.4 that there is no built-in goal for human life, but that we set the goal for our life by our choices. Implicit in this setting of goals for ourselves is the fact that the goals are not infinite and not in principle unreachable; and when we reach them (are successful, as I defined it in that same chapter), then we have no further goal except to maintain the equilibrium we have reached. It is not that we immediately then set new goals for ourselves. Far from it. Most of the time we have to be dragged, kicking and screaming, toward any kind of change.
So let us bring out into the open what has all along been implicit in what I have been saying about human freedom and human goals:
Conclusion 1: The goal of each human being is a finite complex of activities, reachable in principle, and in general reachable in practice if he should "get the breaks."
It is, of course, possible for a human being to set an infinite goal for himself (and want to be God or a pure spirit); but this would be immoral, because in fact we can't achieve this even in principle.(2) It is also possible to set a goal that is reachable in theory, but cannot be reached in practice during a lifetime (I myself have such a goal: that of changing the way the world thinks for the next couple of thousand years). But it is the rare person who sets goals like this, and he would probably have to be a nut like me, whose theory allows him to think that even that goal is actually reachable, even if not during this stay on earth. I mentioned in discussing what life is all about in Chapter 4 of Section 4 of the third part 3.4.4 that the tragedy of people in the ghetto is not that they can't achieve their goals on earth, but that, since they realize they can't achieve their goals in this life, they don't set them, and adjust their aspirations to what they find achievable. This is the case with most people.
I don't want to say that there aren't greedy people, nor that there aren't people who, upon achieving one goal, immediately start reaching higher. What I am saying is that they are rather rare. I don't know very many Ph. D.'s, for instance, who constantly pursue their studies for the sake of knowing more and more. They have to be motivated to keep learning by university policies of "publish or perish," which is another way of saying that if you don't keep advancing, you'll be worse off than you are now. You would think that, having the highest of human acts as their goal, they of all people would want more and more of it, but it's not the case, generally speaking.
Those who hold the Augustinian-Thomistic view that the possession of God is the purpose of our lives because our wills, being attracted to "the good" as abstractly understood, can't be satisfied with anything less than the possession of infinite goodness explain away the manifest reluctance of just about everybody to strive after more and higher acts on the grounds of our fallenness.
For the type of person imbued with this idea (and that includes most Christians), there is something rather sinful in being satisfied with what one has or the way one is. Back in the middle ages, perhaps, this was not so pronounced, because there was the notion of "conformity to the will of God," which counseled contentment with your lot here until you crossed over to the Other Side; but with Calvinism, discontent was rather a virtue than a vice. We ought not to be satisfied with the way we are, because that indicates that we don't have our sights set on the Infinite Beyond.
But that, as I said in discussing what life is all about in Chapter 4 of Section 4 of the third part 3.4.4, means that we have freedom but no room to exercise our freedom except to rebel, because the "greater good" is what is what we ought to be seeking, and if we do something that is reasonable (i.e. good) but "lower" than the greater good, then we are turning away from the goal that is established by our nature--or are being immoral.
But if, as I also said, we are free in that we can set goals for ourselves, then it follows that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being satisfied when we achieve them. And this is consistent with the way we observe people to be; we don't have to assume that the complacency of so many is due to their fallenness.
The economic implications of this are enormous. It says that we aren't by nature infinitely greedy, and therefore, it is does not follow that people are always trying to maximize their own benefit when they act. This, I think, is significant enough to make it a formal conclusion:
Conclusion 2: It is not the automatic tendency of people in transactions to maximize their own gain.
People will be saying that I am now being hopelessly naive. But this is the economic version of its being sinful not to be ever striving for more and more, and passing off the manifest behavior to the contrary of most people as a kind of "aberration"--either that, or the question is begged, as it was in the issue of freedom vs. determinism, discussed in Chapter 6 of Section 3 of the third part 3.3.6.
That is, when a person goes shopping and rather than be bothered assuring himself that he has got the best bargain possible, he simply picks an acceptable item off the shelf and pays whatever is asked, this is called "maximizing his own benefit" because he is saving time, which he considers more valuable than saving the money by price comparing. When two people are haggling over some item and one gives in and takes a loss, he is still said to be "maximizing his own benefit," because he considers himself better off for striking the bargain than striking one to his advantage. And so on. Using that definition of "maximizing your own gain," there is no action you could perform that would not be one of maximizing your own gain.
The idea behind defining the term in this way is that, since we always act to maximize our own benefit, then obviously whatever we do has to be an instance of maximizing our own benefit; and even if it seems that we have deliberately done the opposite, this is because we prefer this action to the other one and so are actually choosing to maximize our benefit. In the same way, those who hold this position say that when we act out of love for someone else, we are actually increasing our own satisfaction, because it is more satisfying to ourselves to perform this act than not to do so; and so to say that we were doing it "purely and simply for the other person" is supposed to be false.
You see how insidious this view is? Because of a theory that it is irrational to do anything except for your own gain, it is concluded that we never do do anything except for our own gain; and then when a person claims that he did something for some other reason, we call him a liar and a hypocrite--or self-deluded--and therefore, we claim that we know more about his motives than he does.
But on what is that theory based? On the notion that a person can't be free; that the more attractive alternative determines his action. Then you stand on your head to say that every alternative the person chooses was actually "more attractive" to him at the time, in spite of the fact that he said he recognized that it wasn't ("I'll hate myself in the morning for this") and did it anyway. In that case, as I said in the discussion on freedom, there is no such thing as compulsive behavior.
Two remarks have to be made at this point, however. The first is that people have been bombarded with this by economists ever since Adam Smith (and even before that by preachers from the pulpit and all of the supposedly "common-sense" philosophers who hold that of course we're not really free that what we really do is maximize our own gain) and that we ought to be doing this, and that we're bad businessmen if we don't do it, and even bad Christians if we don't do it. It stands to reason that many people who have no particular desire to maximize their benefits will tend to do this if for no reason than not to seem naive or bad businessmen.
But in point of fact, this rule is honored in the breach by most small entrepreneurs, who are the majority of businessmen. They want to make a decent, even a comfortable living from what they are doing, but they aren't interested in making as much as possible from their business (though they wouldn't take it amiss if they got fabulously rich by what they are doing. The point is that this is not really a goal they have). If someone else gets ahead of them by being more astute, this doesn't fret them,(3) because their business is achieving the purpose they see in it.
And even larger firms are doing the same thing. I am sometimes appalled by the wasteful, extravagant practices that go on in the businesses I have contact with: adding staff that isn't necessary, taking trips that don't benefit the business, and so on and so on. The boss has a "thing" about gadgets, perhaps, and so a lot of the money in the business is plowed into "equipment" that can only marginally affect the way the business runs. Further, the very best quality equipment is bought, when something much less expensive will do the job just as well. How many companies there are with laser printers printing with nothing but Courier type, making everything look like a well-typed letter. Why? Because there's all this money lying around, and you might as well spend it this way as some other way. You can't really change the market price for your product or for wages (something impossible, according to some economic theories), the government is going to give you a tax break for the equipment, and so why not? I even find this tendency in myself in the minuscule textbook publishing business I have to supply my notes in book form to my students. I buy fancy fonts to make the pages look nicer, because I like the way they look--and if I make too much profit, the government is going to charge self-employment tax. I'm not interested in making money; I just have fun with what I'm doing.(4)
The other remark is that there's a germ of truth in what the "maximizers" say. Since there is no objective "good," and nothing objectively important, as I said in Chapter 10 of Section 5 of the first part 1.5.10 and Chapter 2 of Section 7 of the fourth part 4.7.2, then we create the "goodness" in what is good by making choices which have the particular thing as their goal. In that sense, it would necessarily follow that what we choose is better (for us) than the alternative, or more important than it, no matter what it is. And of course, what this means is that we are then "maximizing our own benefit," or at least our own perceived benefit.
But that doesn't mean that we have a tendency to do this maximizing; taken in that sense, "maximizing your own perceived benefit" is a tautology which has in itself nothing to do with "striving to be better off." Even the person who is immoral, knowing that what he is bringing on himself is his own eternal frustration, has this frustration as his goal, and rejects the alternatives; and so in that sense would rather be in hell than in heaven. I mentioned this in passing several times. But then this destroys all meaning to "striving to be better off," since there is no sense in which it would be possible even in principle not to "strive to be better off," and everything, loss, maiming, death, torture turn out to be "better" by the mere fact of someone's choosing them.
I have no quarrel with this; in fact, it is what I mean when I say that goodness is subjectively based. But the view that I am criticizing wants it somehow to mean that the person perceives that he will objectively be better off for whatever choice he makes, and that he can mistakenly choose something in order to be better off and find that he is worse off afterwards. The only way this can happen on my view is that the object in question doesn't have the value of leading to the chosen goal, and so the goal isn't reached; not that the person mistook the goal as "good" when it wasn't. A goal can't be anything but good, by definition (as a matter of fact, by a definition that stretches back as far as Aristotle).
What's going on here is that there is a confusion in two senses of "being better off": (1) achieving the goal, whatever it is, that you set for yourself, and (2) being less limited than you are now. "Maximizing your own benefit" really is intended to be taken in the second sense, that we are always trying to get more wealth, more power, more freedom, more pleasure, more friendship, and so on; and that we never act unless we think that we will on balance have more of these things than any of the alternatives. This is vastly different from saying that we set goals for ourselves with or without any consideration of whether they are on balance an objective increase in any of these areas, let alone based on a calculation of the relative increases and decreases in all of them.
I submit that we are not such calculating creatures. We imagine ourselves as different, and head toward that imaginary self, often without stopping to consider whether on balance this means a greater life. It is a "better" life by definition, but that does not mean that it is greater than the alternative. And we often deliberately refuse to consider the objective gains of one course of action as opposed to the others, because the course of action that makes us objectively less limited doesn't get us to the goal we have chosen. Many is the person who could benefit from a college education or a Ph. D. who stops going to school because he doesn't want to be that kind of person, no matter how much less objectively limited he would be because of the education he would be receiving.
You can't have it both ways. You can't say that a person actually wants to be less limited than he knows he can be and simultaneously say that because he chose to drop out of school, he thinks that he is being less limited for doing so.
But I have belabored this point enough. Suffice it that I think that my position, that we set finite goals for ourselves and that we're satisfied when we achieve them (in the sense that we don't choose to go beyond where we are), has as much going for it as the view that we're eternally striving beyond ourselves.
The Third Great Myth: The market price expresses the real, objective value of a product or service.
The fact that this is false will have to be established at some length later. Hints that it is false are the following: First, it is a variation on the fallacy above, because it assumes that values and importance are objective. Values, as I said in Chapter 2 of Section 7 of the fourth part 4.7.2, are objective in the sense that they actually lead to the (subjectively adopted) goal (if the object doesn't lead there, it doesn't by definition have the value); but they aren't objective in the sense that they can be compared with one another in such a way that one object is objectively "more valuable" than another. In that sense, as I said in that chapter, the comparison is on the basis of the importance of the goals they lead to--and importance is subjective.
Secondly, the market price is simply the price at which all the people offering a product or service can sell all they want to offer at that price, and all the people wanting to buy the product can buy all they want to buy at that price. It doesn't mean that all the sellers sell all they have (because some won't sell except for a higher price), nor that all the buyers can buy all they want (because some might buy more if the price were lower, and others might want the item but not at that price and so don't buy at all).
So it doesn't follow that the accident that the shelves get cleared at this price makes the price the real price, expressing the real value of the item. This would imply that those who were willing to pay a higher price and got the item at a bargain didn't value it "truly"; and yet, if the sellers run out and prices go up, then suddenly their value is the objective one. Or look at fads. Pet rocks were selling at a rather high price a while back (Yes, I mean a rock that you buy to have as a pet); and then suddenly no one wanted one any more. Of course, why anyone would want to buy something he could pick up in his back yard might cause you to wonder; but the fact is that for several months people bought those things, and then didn't. Did that mean that for those months, the objective value was whatever they sold for and then suddenly they became objectively worthless? That's a funny kind of objectivity.
Again, this is one of those question-begging definitions, of which economic theory is replete. If the freely established market price determines the real, objective value of the object, then obviously its objective value fluctuates with the vagaries of supply and demand; and unless, like Marx, you attempt to show that supply and demand have some underlying rationale (the "cost of production" in his case), then your real value turns out to be nothing but the whims of the multitude.
But let us leave this for the moment and save further discussion of it until we discuss in what sense the seller finds a value in what he is trying to get rid of, so that a transaction can take place. What I intended here is just to awaken you to a prejudice you probably have, and show that you can't just take it for granted.
The Fourth Great Myth: economics is subject to mathematical analysis.
The fallacy behind this myth, actually, is the preceding one. If you take it that the market price of something is something objective and real, and that it expresses the "true value" (or the "exchange value"(5)) of the item, then of course, since the price is a certain amount of money, you can do mathematics with prices and come up with "indifference curves" and "equilibrium prices" and all the rest of it. Since you have curves, you can also use the calculus to do your figuring as if they represented something continuous like the path of a movement, which can be divided into indefinitely smaller parts. The result is that you can study higher mathematics and apply it to your science, and everything looks so numerical, objective, accurate, and learned.
But I'm sorry to say, it's all a sham. In the first place, there's the obvious fact that the items sold are units, and you either sell one or you don't; and so you can't divide the supply infinitely, nor the demand; and since the price of each item is a finite amount, you can't divide that infinitely either. Hence, the calculus, which deals with continuous quantities (because otherwise, you can't approach the 0/0 we talked about in Chapter 3 of Section 3 of the fourth part 4.3.3), doesn't really apply. So when you talk about "marginal increases" and "marginal differences," this is a pure mental fiction; and calculations based on them will necessarily be rough approximations to the real world, not accurate descriptions of it.
But more important is the fallacy that if you're dealing with numbers, you're being objective. I mentioned this as a fallacy in discussing observation and hypothesis in Chapter 2 of Section 4 of the fourth part 4.4.2. Nine thousand instances of subjectivity do not add up to one iota of objectivity; and the fact that at the moment pet rocks can be sold for two dollars, because there are enough fools around to buy them to keep them moving off the shelves, does not mean (a) that somehow this sum of subjective evaluations becomes an objective value, or (b) that tomorrow the evaluations won't be totally different.
Each evaluation by a purchaser is completely independent of evaluations by any other purchaser; and in fact, what one purchaser is comparing the item with (what giving up the money means in terms of what goals he has to give up or postpone) is completely different from what every other purchaser is comparing it with. Jones is giving up a hamburger; Smith is giving up a box of pencils. Jones wouldn't give two cents for pencils, and Smith doesn't like hamburgers and wouldn't take one as a gift. How can the accidental fact that these two happen to put down two pieces of paper with George Washington's picture on it mean that the value it has is objective? Remember, the market price is the result of the sum of individual buying choices, not something that establishes these choices, even in Marxist economics, because the price depends on supply and demand at any moment, and only in the long run is it dependent on cost of production.
And the success of economists at predicting what will happen to the country's economy is an excellent verification that they're all dealing with smoke and mirrors when they apply mathematics to what is happening. They claim, of course, that the poor rate of predictability is due to the complexity of the situation, involving millions of choices by millions of people. But statisticians do quite well predicting automobile accidents on holidays, weather forecasters do rather well at predicting the weather, and know how far into the future they can predict it--because there are in fact underlying constants in these things which show up through the otherwise random behavior, as we discussed in discussing experiment in Chapter 3 of Section 4 of the fourth part 4.4.3.
But in economics, the only constants are necessities, not values, because the goals the values lead to are freely chosen, and are not something built in by nature. And this leads us to
The Fifth Great Myth: Necessities are just very valuable values.
I discussed why this was a fallacy in Chapter 3 of Section 7 of the fourth part 4.7.3, where I showed that necessities can't be put in the same class as values, because we are free with respect to being better off, but we have a moral obligation not to choose our own damage--which can be established objectively, because it contradicts our reality.
Hence, there would be a statistical way you could predict the price of necessities, because (a) one who lacks a necessity has to have enough of it so that he is no longer in contradiction with himself, and (b) he cannot morally refuse it, no matter what values he has to give up to get it. This means that the demand for it is "inelastic": a certain amount of it is needed at any given time, irrespective of what the asking price for it is.
Of course, things are complicated by the fact that practically all necessities are not pure necessities, but can be values also. We need enough water to keep from dehydration; but beyond that, we can use it to wash with or to swim in. We need enough gasoline so that we can get to work and back; beyond that, we can use it to travel to Cleveland to see Aunt Marge. We need enough heating oil to keep from freezing in the winter; beyond that, we can keep the house warm enough to go around in shirt sleeves. We need enough health care so that we're not sick; beyond that, we can use it to become fit. Only the necessary aspects of these things have inelastic demands attached to them; the value aspects will tend to fluctuate with the price, as people trade off the goals they permit. My point above is that you can find where the necessity begins in a given culture by finding out where the demand becomes inelastic.
But this isn't really what's important here. It's that the idea that necessities and values can be put on the same scale is the part of economic theory that has the most pernicious consequences when put into practice. Since from the buyer's point of view the "value" of a necessity is infinite (while, as we will see, from the seller's point of view, it is finite), then the market price can be whatever the seller wants it to be--as we see nowadays with health-care delivery, which is bankrupting our country. Sometimes this works in reverse. Since working for somebody is a necessity for those who are incompetent as entrepreneurs, then a free market in wages can result in a market price that, as Marx's theory supposes, "hovers around" survival.
Marx tried to solve the problem by in effect supposing that everything was a necessity, and values were less necessary necessities; but that leads to the poverty of nations, as we have seen demonstrated.
I think that by far the more reasonable theory is that necessities and values are incommensurate, and therefore must be treated entirely differently as far as economics goes; and we won't solve the mess economies are in (since all of them follow some theory or other) until this distinction is recognized and its implications followed. Interestingly, the "maximizing one's own benefit" fallacy is hidden in the failure to make this distinction. The assumption is that you can compare losses and gains and offset a loss by a corresponding gain. Thus we have people suing companies for a million dollars because they lost an arm from the company's product--meaning that they think that a million dollars can "make up" for the loss of the arm. Nothing in God's world, no value under the sun, can make up for not having an arm; because values all deal with freely chosen goals, presupposing that you are already human; and losses such as this dehumanize you no matter where you set your goals.
I am not saying that those who were injured shouldn't be able to collect damages; it is the attitude that a certain amount of "good" is the inverse of a corresponding amount of "bad" that is the fallacy. Avoiding loss is an entirely different procedure from pursuing gain.
And, in fact, what motivates a great many people is avoiding trouble, not striving to be greater. Bureaucrats are perhaps the prime examples of this; and one of the reasons why Communist societies don't work is that everyone is a bureaucrat. Nothing productive gets done, because the only thing that operates in a "command" economy is avoiding trouble; even if you want to help others, you're not going to be allowed to do it by your colleagues, and you'll suffer for it because you'll make them look bad, and they're interested in avoiding trouble.
So here again we have a fallacious conclusion of an a priori theory masquerading as a fact of observation; and it is because so many people take it as a fact and never consider questioning it that both capitalist and socialist economies are in a mess.
The Sixth Great Myth: Economics is amoral.
What is behind this myth is that economics as a science is based on the way people do in fact behave, and is "descriptive, not normative," while ethics is "normative" and therefore prescriptive. Secondly, since economics is supposed to be based just on observations of what people actually do, it is "objective," and since ethics "deals with moral values," it is subjective. Thirdly, the moral prescriptions ethics deals with are assumed to be "tacked on" to economic activity with no relevance to the theory itself, which doesn't prescribe any activity.
But in fact this is nonsense. In the first place, we have seen five hidden assumptions that form the foundations of economic theory, and they are not based on observation of what people do, but on some kind of mysterious insight into what they "are really doing" (such as maximizing their own benefit). Actually, these foundations are a view of human nature that is a philosophical theory (basically, that of Locke and Hume) that is simply accepted as "observed fact" when it has very little to do with observed fact. Economics based on the foundations I have described in the Great Myths is not descriptive, therefore.
Secondly, to say that economics as taught in colleges is not prescriptive is either hopelessly naive or downright hypocritical. Since economic activity is supposedly to maximize the benefit of the agent, who is assumed to be infinitely greedy, then what the textbooks tell you people "really do" is just that; and so what they tell you is that if you're going to engage in economic activity properly, you're going to have to do this and this and this in order to maximize your own benefit.
For instance, it is supposedly bad economics to hire more workers after you've reached the point of diminishing returns. If the salary you pay Jones increases output so that the profit you get from the new output is greater than the salary and expenses you pay to have Jones working for you, you hire him. At the point of diminishing returns, the amount you're paying Jones is equal to the amount of profit you get from hiring him; and so it's a tossup whether you want him working or not. After that point, you're paying more to allow Jones to work than the amount you get out of having him work for you, and so it makes no economic sense to hire him.
Oh no? What law says that the only thing that makes economic sense is to have the balance sheet come out in your favor? That you can't make economic sense out of the fact that one of the goals of your business is to give people an opportunity to work?
Oh, but wait a minute, Blair! It might make ethical sense to do this, but we're talking economics here! Precisely. But it's only if you're talking economics on the assumption that the only reason business is engaged in is profit for the entrepreneur (which is based on maximization of one's own benefit), and that the business in itself has no other goal but this that you can say that it makes no economic sense to have workers who cost more than they produce.
Hence, people who hire extra workers and lower their profit margins are assumed not to know economics very well, or are doing bad economics to do good ethics.
And economics isn't prescriptive? When you say that this sort of thing is bad economics? That to consider the humanity of those you have working for you is inconsistent with a business which of its nature has people working for it? That it's only good economics when consideration of working conditions and so on actually results in greater productivity and higher profit?
That's true only on the assumptions that I have called the Six Great Myths. So economics masquerades as (a) ethically neutral, when in fact good ethics comes out as bad economics, and (b) as not prescriptive when in fact when it talks about practices which are "good," economically speaking, or "bad," economically speaking, it is being normative. What else does "normative" mean except talking about "good" and "bad"?
But let that be enough about fallacies in the hidden--and sometimes not so hidden--assumptions of economic theory, and let us move on to how I think economic activity emerges from human reality as I have described it in the earlier parts of this book.Next
1. I am obviously using "myth" here in the ordinary sense of something untrue that is believed to be true, not in the Platonic or religious sense of an imaginative presentation of something that is at least esthetically true.
2. Though we can be given it as a gift, if the Infinite Being chooses to share his life with us, as I believe he does. That is what I think Christianity is at bottom all about. The point is that we cannot achieve it in the sense that it can be a goal for us. We can choose as a goal to act consistently with the gift (and so to desire, as the main purpose of our life, a very high place in heaven); but this is not the same as choosing to be infinite as a goal in life.
3. Unless, of course, their being surpassed is likely to do them damage, and make them worse off than they are now.
4. In that sense, I'm "maximizing my own satisfaction." But for the record, let me say that I'm more interested in the students' having as easy a time of it understanding what I want to tell them than I am in looking at "what I have wrought." Even this book, which will doubtless not be seen (still less read in its entirety) while I am alive, is not done mainly for my satisfaction, but so that my ideas will be "out there" after I die, accessible to the people who can use them to their advantage. Who knows? I may not even get the credit for it; and while I feel a bit of a twinge at this, it is not enough to make me stop with the chore of writing.
5. Note that I would contend that the "exchange value," or the "market value" of something is not a value at all. It expresses a price, not a value, and it might be translated, so to speak into a value by the fact that a person might find that paying the price would let him get something (the valuable object) whose value would lead him to some goal that is more important than something else he could spend his money for. But in itself, the "market price" is, as I said, just the price at which it happens (at the moment) that all sellers willing to sell at that price can sell all they have and all buyers willing to pay that price will be able to get what they buy.