On the Economic Value of Human Beings


Immigrants Shouldn’t Have to Be ‘Talented’ to Be Welcome by Masha Gessen (New York Times, September 6, 2017)

If immigration is debated only in terms of whether it benefits the economy, politicians begin to divide people into two categories: “valuable” and “illegal.” When countries make people illegal, the world comes apart. When we agree to talk about people as cogs, we lose our humanity.

I hate how our culture has decided that economics is the only thing that matters. That every aspect of our society is assessed predominately—if not exclusively—in economic terms. Education, healthcare, the environment, arts and humanities, science and engineering, technology, civil rights, immigration and refugees, and on and on and on…

We insist on addressing all of these issues as economic systems, as markets, as producer-consumer relationships. We value these things only for their economic benefits. Even when we acknowledge non-economic benefits (“The arts make us happier! A good work-life balance makes us healthier!”) we still insist on categorizing them as a sub-set of economic concerns (“Happier & healthier people are more productive workers!”)

But that’s the wrong model for most things.

Society and culture, our country, humanity—these things are all so much more than mere economic systems. To view the world only through the lens of economics all too frequently places our focus on the wrong things.

The economy is not the point. The economy is a tool, a system we can use to make our lives better. Our lives were never supposed to be placed at the mercy of the economy. That’s completely backwards.

We are not just factors in an economy. To act as though that’s all we are utterly devalues humanity itself.

I’m so goddamn tired of us constantly subsuming the fullness of our humanity to our base ability to generate revenue. We value markets more than people.

I have insufficient words to properly summarize how messed up our values have become.

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