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.
7 thoughts on “Pocius’ Theory of Human Value”
Hi Max, thanks for this (and for all your work here).
I am surprised that Pocius be so little reductionist. Isn’t the fact of deducting anything from the value of the parents when their child dies an act of heresy ?
Very interesting comment — I have had his “lecture” in mind for a number of years now, and I did not think of that.
He also neglects the transfer or accumulation of value from one person to another, and of course he neglects very much more in his theory overall.
My interest was in finding out if there is an economist who has produced an identical value theory of human life, or if in private government technocrats use similar calculations.
hmmm… perhaps I would be better off throwing away my pocketbook than keeping it…
“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.”
A good thing for whom? Just Pocius? That $10,000 in debt is money owed to (assumedly) society, in one way or another. So his death, indirectly (or directly) is a negative thing for Pocius because that $10,000 is money that may not be put back into the economy. The loss of a child, based on the investment, I can understand. But the death of a tycoon could potentially return money to society through liquidation, which would benefit Pocius.
That’s right, that would be another flaw with the theory. I also forgot to mention (having just today reviewed a recorded conversation on audio tape), that he is also a Social Darwinist, so that may have coloured his valuation of the person in debt. Without the added judgment, he could have fine tuned his theory better.
Previous comment: No! Don’t throw away your pocketbook! How else will you prove your value? Just kidding of course, unless one takes the theory to be true.
Max, re: your comment on saving my pocket book or throwing it away… that depends on what you think is in my pocket book
…In fact, one can have such high debt that one becomes of critical importance, like a mirror image of the millionaire. I am thinking here more of nation-states to be honest. Right now, few in the world-system would seriously class the U.S. as a “worthless” country simply because of its extraordinary debt level. The Latin American debtors’ cartel in the late 1980s and 1990s also wielded some power, the power of a threat of defaulting on massive loans.
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