Desire as value

In Wired, Virginia Postrel [found via Mises Blog] writes:

A decade ago, pundits were declaring that the future held two kinds of jobs: computer programming and hamburger flipping - or, in the highfalutin language of Robert Reich, those held by "symbolic analysts" and "in-person service providers." Paleoconservative Crossfire host Pat Buchanan warned we were headed toward a "two tier" society. His left-wing guest Jeremy Rifkin agreed, plugging a book that announced The End of Work.

Five years later, that pessimistic conclusion had taken on a wildly optimistic tone (not least in this magazine). Matter and manufacturing were pass?. On the Internet, nobody knew you were a dog or a teenager, or a guy who hadn't changed his clothes in several days. Symbolic analysts were indeed the future.

In today's economic slowdown, it has become clear that both the early-'90s pessimists and the late-'90s boosters misunderstood the true source of economic value. Manufacturing and technology generate wealth only when they make matter and information serve human desire. Desire is the true source of economic value.

And if desire is simply the result of a vision of a better state of affairs, Ludwig Von Mises would agree.

We call contentment or satisfaction that state of a human being which does not and cannot result in any action. Acting man is eager to substitute a more satisfactory state of affairs for a less satisfactory. His mind imagines conditions which suit him better, and his action aims at bringing about this desired state. The incentive that impels a man to act is always some uneasiness [1]. A man perfectly content with the state of his affairs would have no incentive to change things. He would have neither wishes nor desires; he would be perfectly [p. 14] happy. He would not act; he would simply live free from care.[...]

The ultimate goal of human action is always the satisfaction of the acting man's desire.[...]

Value is the importance that acting man attaches to ultimate ends. Only to ultimate ends is primary and original value assigned. Means are valued derivatively according to their serviceableness in contributing to the attainment of ultimate ends. Their valuation is derived from the valuation of the respective ends. They are important for man only as far as they make it possible for him to attain some ends.

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