I’ve been thinking about value lately; both economic and human. The economist Walter E. Williams is fond of saying that in a free economy the way to earn money is to serve your fellow man. The more or better you serve them the higher your economic value. But, the risk in a free market economy is that economic value becomes translated into human value. The implication then becomes clear. If you do not command a high salary you must not be providing value. You are not serving your fellow man well.
One of the reasons this is a concern is because of the growing trend towards freelancing. More and more people are providing services as freelancers and, of course, the more people there are to provide these services the less each individual can charge for their service. In other words, each individual’s economic worth goes down. This trend seems to be hitting many tech heavy industries especially hard. Graphic designers, website developers, and coders. But, also authors and musicians are increasingly under the intense pressure of economic competition. There are so many competing voices now that any one individual gets lost in the noise. And, the worth of their product or service continues to fall.
At some level this can’t help but affect the sense of human worth as well. Right or wrong it’s difficult to escape the conclusion that if your fellow man does not purchase your product or service then it is because they do not think what you are providing is worthy of their time or money. How can you not take this personally?
As disruptive innovation continues to change other industries such as medicine and education this trend will only continue. Sure, the changes will help weed out those who are not really providing quality services but how many others will be shut out for the simple reason that there are simply too many voices to be heard and too many options to compete with? Even the most remarkable will have trouble rising above the madding crowd of providers.
There are things each of us do which are priceless. Then there are things that many of us do that cannot command any economic value. No one wants what we produce. Those things are worthless.
So, are we priceless, worthless, or some combination of the two?