Allegory of the Dollar

I propose an Allegory:

There are two dishes of food.

One is made with poor ingredients, it is not flavorful, it is greasy and not very colorful. In fact, it’s rather repugnant.

The second plate of food is delicious. It’s pretty, flavorful, made with quality ingredients. Overall good.

For the purpose of this Allegory, assume that, arbitrarily, the disgusting dish costs $50 whilst the good dish costs $10.

Which would you assume, looking at their price tag, was more valuable?

Just looking at the price tag, you would likely believe the more expensive food tasted better.

If you were allowed to taste the food, in a blind taste test, only knowing there was one significantly more expensive than the other, you would assume that when you taste the good one, it is the more expensive one.

It is reasonable to expect this.

However, if you knew the less expensive food tasted much better, would that matter to you? Would you still buy the disgusting food just because it’s more expensive, if you had no care for price?

If you are given the two dishes, and told of their value beforehand, if someone said to you, “This one is worth $50 and this one is worth $10,” then you tasted both, which would you say tasted better?

Is it possible that somebody might say the $50 food tastes better, even if it doesn’t? Is price a proper measure of intrinsic value?

Is it safe to assume this never happens? That a price is always justified?

We know it isn’t. We know there’s bad food that costs a lot of money, and the price of that food is justified by location, speed, quality, a variety of factors.

Some food has prices that aren’t justified at all. Their price is justified only by their price.

Over all this, it is safe to say that we assume value from arbitrary monetary assignments. We justify value with arbitrary labels: in food, these labels are gourmet, deluxe, home-cooked.

Can we put monetary labels on people? Can we look at what a person is worth monetarily, and decide their intrinsic value? Or is it their area? Their location? The color of their skin? The family they were born into? The society they were born into, the location, is that what decides their monetary value, like hunks of meat?

Why must we put a price on everything? Why is it so important that money should be the sole determinant of value, especially when that value can so often be arbitrary? Why is it so important that wealth be earned?

Is there nothing to life but money?

Is there no love? No art?

Is there no achievement for the sake of achievement?

Is there no goodness for the sake of goodness?

Must all things tie back to our arbitrary, monetary values, when true value comes from how things make us feel, rather than how much money they get us?

Must we deny people the right to live because we believe them to be unworthy, when money itself is entirely worthless?

Let them prove themselves as worth it, but let them do it not through nigh-impossible transcendence of social barriers. Let them do it healthy, let them do it fed. Let them do it with roofs over their heads, without having to worry about when their next paycheck will come in, how they are going to pay for their education, what will happen to them if they get sick.

Let them have at least that, because those things are worth more than any dollar sign with a number next to it.