As a matter of fact — no!
Alexander Williams

“When it comes to the society of Medium users, if we look at where the hearts go, we can immediately observe what their values are.”

The quantity of hearts on a story reveals how popular it is. It really doesn’t reveal how valuable it is. Value is something that can only be revealed by willingness to pay/spend/sacrifice.

You won’t have much luck going to the grocery store and offering to pay for your items using Facebook “Likes”, Youtube Thumbs Up or Reddit Upvotes. These things all prove that you desire something, but they really don’t prove your demand for it. Proving your demand depends on spending your dollars. This is because, unlike your desires, your dollars are limited.

Here’s the basic economic problem…

Society’s wants: unlimited
Society’s resources: limited

Society’s limited resources have to be divided somehow among society’s unlimited wants. How, exactly, should they be divided? Who gets to make this decision? How is it made?

In a market, everybody gets to use their limited dollars to help determine how society’s limited resources are divided.

Because you have far more desires than dollars, spending your limited money forces you to prioritize. You must decide which of your desires are most important/relevant to you. I must decide which of my desires are most important/relevant to me. We all must decide which of our desires are most important/relevant to us. Everybody participating in this prioritization process is what ensures that society’s limited resources are used in ways that are the most relevant to society as a whole.

Unfortunately, there are far too many places/spaces that aren’t markets. Medium isn’t a market. Neither is Netflix. Neither is the NY Times. Neither is the Cato Institute. Neither is the public sector. In none of these places/spaces are people given the opportunity to substantially and specifically participate in the prioritization process. As a result, an incredible amount of society’s limited resources are used in ways that are far less relevant to society as a whole.

So no, looking at where hearts go on Medium does not, in any meaningful sense, reveal people’s values.

Here’s a relevant quote from Adam Smith…

The people feeling, during the continuance of the war, the complete burden of it, would soon grow weary of it, and government, in order to humour them, would not be under the necessity of carrying it on longer than it was necessary to do so. The foresight of the heavy and unavoidable burdens of war would hinder the people from wantonly calling for it when there was no real or solid interest to fight for. — Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations

If you perceive that I’m “misappropriating” it, then feel free to explain your perception.