homo eoconimicus & the usual musings

I’m still thinking of revamping my web site. Yesterday I purchased a domain name: “thesmallrain.com.” Actually I didn’t purchase it. I get a couple of free ones with my subscription to BluHost. I am working on some re-arrangements for Small Rain and also have in mind some composing.

I was reading in The Gift by Lewis Hyde this morning when I came across a couple of interesting ideas.

Hyde points out for a thing to have market value, it must be detachable. For example one can estimate the worth of one’s possessions such as a piano or a wrist watch. But some things don’t compute into market value. “We find it inappropriate, even rude, to be asked to evaluate in certain circumstances,” he writes. He goes on and cites the story where one is in a life boat with one’s spouse, child and parent and must choose who is to be thrown overboard. He says part of this dilemma is we are normally unwilling to step back that far from our family to evaluate their commodity value.

This reminded me of the basic plot of Sophie’s Choice where the mother is cruelly forced to choose between which of her children goes to the concentration camp to die.

Hyde is working on our relationship to each other and how gifts bind us and material things can keep us distant from each other.

Next he tells the story of how Ford Pinto figured a cost benefit analysis of a safety improvement, reckoning the dollar value of a human life (Pinto Madness by Mark Dowie). If you’re curious, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 1971, a human life was worth $200,725. When Pinto did the math of the small improvement, it was cheaper to let people die than fix it.

Hyde points out there that it’s not always clear what can be thought of as having a cost. It is the rare familiy, he says, that charges for the evening meal. But the cost of the meal can be computed appropriately.

He concludes this section this way

The great materialists, like these automobile executives, are those who have extnded the commodity form of value into the human body, while the great spiritual figures, like the Buddha, are those who have used their own bodies to extend the worth of gifts just as far [In the other direction]

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