In using the surname of a person who may still be living, Pocius, I am doing two conflicting things: trying to maintain his confidentiality, and yet granting him credit for his ideas (lest anyone credit me). Pocius is an elderly, but robust and tall Latvian man, quite an imposing hulk of a man. He has a pleasant but gravelly voice, very bushy eyebrows, likes to wear his sleeves rolled up, and wears pants with suspenders. I cannot say in which country he lives, just that he owns a shop that nobody ever seems to enter, and that does not appear to sell anything for that matter. He lives in that shop.
Without prompting, one day Pocius took me out on the sidewalk in front of his store and began to motion to the passing vehicles and the people inside them. He began his theory of human value.
He noted the different makes of the vehicles and estimated their different prices. If the driver owned the vehicle, without an outstanding loan, the value of the car accrued to him personally. That is just a start: if you own a $30,000 Chrysler, and possess it without debt, then you are worth at least $30,000 as a human being. If you own a home, without debt (debt is negative value, it is worse than being worthless in Pocius’ theory), then the current market price of that home is also part of your value. Let’s say it is worth $250,000. Add it to the price of the car, and you are now worth at least $280,000 as a human life. Then, you may have had an advanced education, that required the payment of tuition — and more than the car or the house, Pocius placed the value of education above all else. Let’s say you went to an Ivy League school in the U.S., and in that case we are talking about a total cost of around $500,000 for a Bachelor’s degree. Add the cost of your most valuable possessions, and add all the money your parents spent on raising you. The person in question is now worth around $1,000,000.
So then Pocius motioned to a man in shabby clothes, shuffling along on the opposite sidewalk. He was unshaven, and eating a bag of fries. Pocius immediately determined that, if not a negative value altogether, the cost of that person was about $15,000.
In other words, he could convert the expenditures invested into the making and maintaining of a member of society into the cost of having the person, thus giving us his or her total value. Having done that, he could now compare one individual with another. From then onwards, he never again referred to persons as young or old, black or white, local or foreign in birth — they were either “$250,000 persons,” or “$50,000 persons,” or “-$10,000 persons.”
If the “-$10,000 person” died, tragically or not, loved by many or not…who cares? His life was of negative value, his death is actually a good thing. But if a “$250,000 person” died, then that was a major loss. If Steve Fossett dies in an accident in his personal aircraft, that is an even bigger loss, a huge loss of value.
If parents invested $300,000 into raising, clothing, and educating their child, and that child is killed, that is the loss of a huge investment. All the money spent is now as good as wasted. In fact, the loss of the money represents a decline in the value of the parents themselves. So such a death matters to Pocius.
If the $0 person who killed the $300,000 person, is also killed in turn, then Pocius would say: no loss. Different human lives have different economic values, and that is just cold, hard fact for Pocius.