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Conclusion: ambiguities with regard to human values

Human Values Stock Exchange: Investing in shares in a value market of (Part #20)

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The intangible nature of values has been stressed. In effect the discussion is an exploration of value "trading" in a generic sense -- of which trading in economic market values is the most obvious and best articulated form.

Although any conflation of the two forms of value may be disputed, there is an interesting way of reviewing and relating the two extremes:

  • the focus on monetary interest and dividend, across a judiciously chosen (multi-sectoral) "spread" of shares in the economic case, may indeed be understood as seeking to optimize a single monetary variable according to a preferred investment strategy
    • but the assumption regarding the single monetary focus ("the bottom line") can however be reframed to the extent that each sectoral share investment is distinguished in that the expected monetary interest (or dividend) in each case is effectively qualified by an assessment of risk-opportunity -- each investment is then qualitatively different
  • the focus on a set of distinct human values may be understood as having been judiciously chosen to optimize a preferred life strategy and sense of identity
    • but the assumption regarding the disparate nature of the set of values, seemingly without any common element, may be usefully seen as corresponding to the sectoral spread of qualitatively different shares
  • in both cases the challenge is to optimize a qualitative set, whether the "bottom line" is monetary or some sense of merit or satisfaction

In the discussion above various suggestions were made as to how a value is held or traded. At this early stage -- prior to further clarification -- an organization may already be ambiguously understood as:

  • A stock: In this case a particular organization, for example Democracy International or World Peace Council, is understood to constitute a prospectus for a particular value, whether or not it in fact embodies the intangible qualities of that value.
  • A share portfolio: In this case a particular organization, for example Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch or UNICEF, are each understood to represent a distinct portfolio of values
  • A mutual fund: In this case a particular organization, for example Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch might be understood to constitute a fund managing a distinct portfolio of values
  • A meeting of shareholders: In this case a particular individual membership organization, for example Amnesty International, is understood to represent those subscribing to the value -- but effectively only the major shareholders
  • A broker: In this case a particular organization, for example European Science Foundation or Migrants Rights International, are in each case understood to act as a broker -- promoting particular values for acquisition by others. It might even act to assist an investor to relinquish a value (as in re-education or deprogramming) or give priority to another
  • A value exchange: In this case a particular organization, for example UNESCO or ILO, is each understood to constitute a value exchange in which a range of values is traded and prioritized in the plenary conference.

Many of these roles are already variously performed by international organizations identified in the Yearbook of International Organizations -- whether "official" intergovernmental organizations or nongovernmental bodies. The value exchange role is in particular performed within the international (plenary) meetings of such bodies -- as identified in the International Congress Calendar. Of particular interest is the manner in which these many distinct "stock exchanges" for non-monetary human values are interlinked and variously "quote" and prioritize (namely "trade") the same values (or value sets) -- perhaps at a regional level. Where such contexts bring together their equivalents at the regional or national level, or those which have a more specific sectoral focus, a distinction may be seen between broader and more specialized exchanges analogous to that in the economic case. The broader contexts may be understood as seeking to bring order to a wider segment of the values market.

Of particular interest is that the intimate relationship of organizational forms with a value that they purport to represent in some way result in practice in either the organization or the value losing its credibility in relation to that which it previously held. Of course it is also possible that the appreciation of the value and/or the organization may increase in a manner subsequently held to be excessive or inappropriate.

The fact that, for a given value or set of values, many different bodies may be considered as performing such roles stresses further the non-exclusive quality of intangible values. Whilst some bodies may strive, or claim, to "corner the market" with respect to one or more such values, other bodies may emerge that claim or act otherwise. Classically this situation has been highlighted with respect to "peace" as a value. The inability of any of the many bodies focused exclusively on "peace" to represent that value unambiguously, and without contestation by others making some such claim, is an indication of how the value transcends any of the above roles to "capture" it within the values market. In contrast with the exclusive nature of possession or ownership of property, as represented by stock in the financial market, human values clearly have a non-exclusive dimension -- despite any efforts to "corner the market".

This framework also suggests the merit of reflecting on the nature of national parliaments as contexts in which human values are effectively traded. The use there of the term "horse-trading" points to an existing recognition of this process -- as a dematerialization of the trading in stock by farmers. The dynamics of regional parliaments, such as the European Parliament, are then of particular interest as regional value exchanges -- especially with respect to the efficiency, speed and transparency with which they perform this function in relation to the value "shareholders" in whose values they are effectively trading.

Recently there has been a focus on selected (but typically unidentified) core "blue chip" values at the global level. This has notably been in service of particular (and potentially questionable) political and religious agendas (cf Tony Blair, Global Alliance for Global Values, Speech on Foreign Policy to the Parliament of Australia, 27 March 2006; Honor Mahony, Merkel favours God reference in EU constitution, EU Observer, 26 May 2006). It is especially unfortunate that such intiatives should be promoted by world leaders so recently associated with public deception -- Blair in the case of WMD, Merkel as inheritor of the mantle of presidency of the Christian Democratic Union (completely discredited by Helmut Kohl's party financing scandal), or George Bush (Lie by Lie: Chronicle of a War Foretold: August 1990 to March 2003, MotherJones, September/October 2006).

Any value initiatives are particularly problematic when deliberate efforts are to be made to impose "Christian values" on a continent under the auspices of a particular religion -- as indicated by Angela Merkel's commitment, as future president of the EU, following her encounter with the Pope (cf Nicholas Watt, Merkel backs more Christian EU constitution, The Guardian, 29 August 2006). The commitment on behalf of Germany is particularly unfortunate given its highly controversial association with the Vatican on the occasion of a previous attempt to impose a set of values on Europe (cf Bill Stone, The Vatican and World War II, 1999). Such initiatives should be explored in the light of the necessary clarification of roles suggested here. Such clarification is especially important to the extent that these political agendas represent a reframing of the discredited strategic initiative of the Coalition of the Willing and its leadership (cf Blair: Western values must triumph over radical Islam. Islam Review, 1 August 2006) -- perhaps well analyzed by Scott Peck (People of the Lie, 1983).

Also of interest is the possibility for any individual to reframe the sense of personal identity in terms of the value stock market metaphor. An individual is thus constantly juggling with a set of value priorities -- a personal (existential) portfolio requiring "management" and calling for analysis of "performance". It is perhaps through enhancing the skills required for such management, through the many insights from the stock market, that new approaches to well-being can be realized.

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