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Value, Scarcity and Beauty

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Peter Fennell

Joined: 27 Sep 2007
Posts: 53
Location: London

PostPosted: Mon Nov 15, 2010 12:19 am    Post subject: Value, Scarcity and Beauty Reply with quote

Economics is the study of value.

Smith attempts to differentiate into
Value in use (utility) and Value in exchange

Utility or Intrinsic Value are difficult and so Exchange Value becomes settled upon as a proxy for all value. (Hence the economist is said to understand price but not value).

But price often observably alters with supply and demand, scarcity, therefore Economists have come to define the subject by it:
"choices between alternative uses of scarce resources"

So air is not scarce and therefore has no price and can be quickly dropped from economic consideration. Although as a basic need it clearly has intrinsic value to us.

Lapis Lazuli is a relatively rare semi-precious stone that is valued for jewellery. It was also ground up to make a pigment used for painting the Madonna's blue garment. That ultramarine blue would be pricey.

It is scarce due to the inherent scarcity in Nature of the raw material. And for the same reason would require considerable effort (labour) to acquire. On Labour theories of value the latter would explain its high price. On conventional theory scarcity would be sufficient explanation. Scarcity also pits together competing valuations from different uses (such as jewellery).

There is of course the type of scarcity that arises by stockpiling or fencing things. That also increases price, but does not create wealth or our stock of intrinsic value.

In c.1870 synthetic French ultramarine was invented.

The question for me is this: was the ultramarine blue used for the madonna's garment because it was rare and very expensive? Was it in other words valued not for itself but for economic associations. OR was it valued for some intrinsic aesthetic quality of the colour?

And if so is that connected with the nature of things, a colour frequency that somehow resonates with our nature?

And can it be devalued by over use?
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Richard Glover

Joined: 29 Sep 2008
Posts: 185
Location: Ealing, London, UK

PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2010 2:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Without at least some of both "Value in Use" and "Scarcity" there would be no "Exchange Value" and not be much labour expended on it either. "Value in Use" and "Scarcity" are both essential to "Exchange Value", yet it is only with exchange that valuation is really tested and can be recorded.

Scarcity may well increase the effort required to secure an alternative supply to that available in the market (ie supply); demand will be fuelled by value in use.

When the artist selected that particular source of pigment, the gem's physical scarcity combined with it being the only source of a unique colour could be the one reason. However, I suspect it had more to do with the colour's appeal and the artist's determination for the best; it so happened to be in scarce supply.

If we only went for what had lasting appeal for us, I suspect the short list would be miniscule compared with the vast array on offer. Each of us may have a slightly different list reflecting individual aspects of our nature.

Repeated breathing does not seem to be subject to overuse, at least as far as has been observed to date. A walk in fresh seaside air is sometimes most appealing after several months breathing London air. But then again, so is the return home after a day's visit.
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