Often - in database theory, at least - contrasted to objects; persons, places, things, even ideas may be thought of as objects.
Objects are usually characterised in terms of their properties, or attributes, and these can take either values or objects.
Objects can change: the values of their attributes can change.
Values, on the other hand, have no properties, and they are immutable.

Something's value is how much someone will pay for it. It doesn't matter how much you think it's worth, or how much you put into it, if someone won't buy it, then its value is zero. There are other ways of determining value in the real world, like how much something means to you, etc., but pure monetary value is determined, in the end by how much someone will pay for it.

Ebay is a great forum for determining something's value.

In computer programming, a value is an item of data in some location of a program's memory.

A value can be numeric, i.e. an integer or floating point number, or it can be a character, a string, a boolean, a pointer or any other data type that can be used by the particular programming language used. Numeric values in a program usually represent quantities in the real world; character or string values represent textual information; pointer values usually contain memory addresses of other data.

Values can be constants, used in assignments, such as:

int rpm = 3600;
(3600 is a constant value being assigned to variable rpm)
or in expressions, such as:
volume = 4 / 3 * Math.PI * exp(radius, 3);
(4 and 3 are constants, and so (probably) is Math.PI, used in the calculation of a value for volume)
or they can be stored in variables, as in:
force = mass * acceleration;
(Variable force is being assigned a new value, the product of the values of variables mass and acceleration.)
The content of a variable is often referred to synonymously as its value.

Value is, for the most part, determined by two factors: what it is made up of (its parts) and what it represents (its aesthetics). Take, for example, a chair: a chair is, at its heart, a very basic item and exists for one purpose, sitting; its success at that purpose will vary based on what its parts are and how they fit together. But, because a chair exists for only one purpose, its success at that purpose can only vary so much; because of this, a chair's form is critical in determining its value. Thus, a chair that is very comfortable but ugly and a chair that is uncomfortable but beautiful will both be valuable because function and form are of roughly equivalent importance in the world of chair design.

Values are things that people believe are important, not born with but are acquired. Values are guides to the way you live your life.

Your values shape your life:

  • Attitudes: your general thought about a person, situation, belief of object
  • Beliefs: Things you belive are real, true or that you have faith in
  • Behaviour: the way in which you or another person acts

    Values influence decisions. They are what makes decision making different from problem solving. In problem solving there may be only one correct answer, but in decision making several people given he same situation may make different decisions. They may be right for them because they hold different values. Someone may value financial security or independance, and others may value education and friendship. These are just common examples.

    As people grow from childhood to adolescence their values are likely to change. They are also likely to alter during the course to adulthood. A study in Britain gave two groups of students, one of children about 5-6 and another around 11-13, this question:

    A man's wife is very sick and near death. There is an expensive medicine that will make the wife all better but the man is poor and cannot afford it. Is it alright if he steals the medicine so his wife can live?

    The 5-6 year olds believed it was wrong to steal since it is against the law. The older group found that a human life is worth the risk, after all, a human life is priceless and therefore more valuable than the stolen medicine. This showed that as children grew up their thoughts became more complex and thus learned that certain things they may have valued were probably not as important as they originally thought.

  • 1

    It is stupid to think that Handi Sahab would not have anticipated this cruel fate. The fate decided by the King’s will. Had it not been Puru’s persuasion for days on end, I would not have ventured into this. Maybe a heap of curses aimed at everyone would be an outlet for the scream in my head and heart.  But I chose to be quiet.

    The King’s words still echo in my ears - “Your family will be taken care of, for three generations. You can choose between prison and the gallows”. What an abundance of choices!

    Yesterday was the one of the happiest days of my life – the Taj Mahal, hear they will call it by that name, the most exquisite and expensive construction ever, was officially declared completed; reminded me of the day when Khurram was born.  Incidentally, he is named after the King.   He will be 17 years old, this spring. It has been 16 years since I left home. All for the most beautiful tomb ever built - the immortal symbol of the King’s love!  I cannot clearly remember the words on the scroll which Puru presented to the King, his praise for the King’s love and adoration for Mumtaz. Where is Puru?

    I woke up from my thoughts by the loud cry from Puru, himself. He had expected a valuable gift from the King when all the architects and supervisors were ordered to be at the Durbar.  Now, I understand the solemn silence of Chiranjilal and Handi Sahab; like every other time, they seemed to know a bit more than all of us. Chiranjial had even warned Puru “Happiness is like a rising tide, the higher the tide, the impending low is more destructive”. Puru came running to me and tried to drag me out of the court house. When I refused and freed myself from him, he ran like a madman to the door, only to be overpowered by the guards before fainting.


    The unseen beauty of Mumtaz had always enchanted me. I had written a poem for her in my heart. I tore it apart. The eroticism in the poem had prevented me from writing it down. The King was known to slay anyone who hinted at the slightest desire for the queen. It does not make a difference anymore.

    Why did I choose to come to Agra? It was not just Puru’s insistence. Not the 5000 gold coins – though I had not seen 50 of them together. It was not greed or need, but the charm of working for the King, to be build the most stunning piece of architecture man has ever produced. Puru could not conceal his excitement when he said “The King himself selects the main architects”. I remembered Baba saying “One day you will work for the King, if you apply yourself”. Baba was instrumental in helping me to understand what I wanted to do in life – build. It was when I visited Darga Shariff with Baba that I saw Shahjahangate, I mumbled to myself “Who would have constructed it?”   Baba had said “No one would know them. People will only talk about Shahjahan.” I did not understand it then, now I do.

    His Excellency (he is addressed so, more out of habit than respect) had a team of courtiers who would present him as the most kind King, the greatest admirer of art and artists and the supreme connoisseur of beauty. In the beginning when I came to Agra, my thoughts were no different. But later I realised, all he is after is his name as the greatest King of the Mughal Empire - a grand position in history.  Whoever evoked his displeasure was probably not killed, but they somehow vanished forever.

    I needed just one glance of Aurangazeb’s eyes to realise the true nature of his father. He was 14 years old then, and did not know to hide himself behind his handsome face, like his father did. Those eyes reminded me of the wolf which attacked me during one of my journeys to the forests with Baba. We were having our lunch when the beast jumped on me; it was Baba’s deft movements with his knife which saved me (I used to marvel at his agility even at his old age; I am sure if he were not a painter he would have been a warrior or a fantastic thief).  The wolf lay bleeding; I recovered my breath and looked at its terrifying eyes. They don’t lose the look in their eyes even while they lie awaiting their end. Aurangazeb had the same eyes even when he smiled. I had the first feeling of uneasiness after coming to Agra, when I met his eyes while entering the Durbar before the plans were finalized for the Mahal.


    Once again, I was awakened from my thoughts by the continuous drumming, bringing to our notice that the choice needs to be made now. Imprisonment would not just mean confinement; it is very likely that you will be blinded before being sent to a dirty, dark room. Gallows would be easy, easier especially for those who believe in an afterlife, they are being killed for no fault of theirs, they have spent the most productive years of their life working, not indulging in adultery or intoxication, dutifully submitting themselves to God.

    Not me. I had never given enough thought to the question of God, not because of fear of being accused of blasphemy, but I could find joy, the kind of spiritual transcendence that devotees talk about, in a lot of tiny things; tiny for others, significant for me - the shape of stones, the texture and colour of soil in different parts of the empire, the morning dew, the sharp end of a needle…

    I could hear Handi Sahab nonchalantly saying that he chose the gallows over the perennial misery of blindness and prison. It appeared as if he knew it all before, much before anybody else, even before he started working on the Mahal. He might have been coerced into it, or probably needed the money. It is a mystery why he was not well known before; someone with his skills and character would be known only as one of the many architects of a single building, however magnificent it maybe!One-by-one everyone announced their decisions; I stopped caring to listen to them, not even Puru’s. My mind was growing numb; I looked at the sun through the carved window, while the wind carried the fragrance of the garden to the hall, drew a fresh breath of air and said “prison”. Chained, watched by the sentry, I took the long dreary walk to the jail. The vague image of the Mahal could be seen at a distance. The poem was lingering in the air:


    When the stars sleep, in the night’s calmness

    Mumtaz walks like a deer in wilderness

    Walks very slowly in her veil

    One can hear the King’s horses approaching with the day’s kill

    For a thousand years, your sadness will fill

    These marbles which adorn the sill

    Mumtaz! Pale, beautiful like snow

    When you bled to death, I cannot forget the glow

    On your face, the sufferings of a thousand women

    How could you endure, is beyond my ken

    How could anyone make you bear fourteen1?

    Your dreaming mind and body still verily pristine

    How could he forgive himself

    The one who never let you be yourself

    Is twenty times thousand2 a number, or a sacrifice

    Or the value of this magnificent edifice?


    1.       Mumtaz died giving birth to her fourteenth child.

    2.       20000 workers are rumoured to have been killed or mutilated by the orders of Shahjahan.

    On the Failure of Money to represent Value

    What a person values is what they consider to be good in the world, or their life. What an economy values is what it treats as being good in the world. The two are clearly related, and we might hope that a well-optimised economy would work to maximise the production, conservation and distribution of things that people value.

    Unfortunately, economies almost always work with numbers, and translating personal values into numerical quantities is not a trivial matter. Our current economic system treats money as a proxy for value - when monetary transactions take place, the price that someone pays for something is treated as being the value they assign to it.

    The best things in life

    Equating value with price has the great advantage of being relatively simple, and relating economic value to something that clearly has something to do with personal ideas of value, but there are some big problems monetary exchange as the determiner of value. One is that a great many of the things that make people happy and well do not come from monetary exchange, and optimising for monetary value risks undermining those things. In particular, a transaction between two parties has no guarantee of accounting for its effects on anyone else. Various attempts have been made to put a price on the otherwise unquantifiable, by asking people how much they would pay for things like trees and rivers and communities, if they had to. By its nature, though, a market economy does little to account for these things.

    Conversely, the creative industries are heavily invested in putting a price on things which modern technology allows us to distribute freely. This often means attempting to restrict access only to those who can pay for a copy. Alternatives include mediation by libraries, subscription services and broadcasters, all of which have mechanisms in place to pay for distribution rights while sharing things more-or-less freely. All of these have to compete with an internet which allows people to gain limitless access to things of value to them, without any system in place for the originators of those things to be paid. Since the copies are valuable, and their reproduction is virtually cost-free, there is a perspective on piracy which sees it as free wealth. The same argument applies to access to the results of research and innovation. However, generating any of these things may still require substantial investment. It seems likely that an optimal system might allow unrestricted access to these things while fairly compensating their creators and allocating sufficient resources for them to go on creating the same sorts of things. The problem of putting together such a system may or may not be intractable, but it is certainly not straightforward, and in its absence, whole industries based on restricted-access business models are floundering.

    Inequality and Weighting

    Another major problem with market evaluation is that it assigns vastly much more weight to the values of some people compared with others. The importance of somebody's purchasing decisions is roughly in proportion to their disposable income, meaning that the preferences of some people are several orders of magnitude more important than those of others in determining how the economy acts. This is true even within national economies, but the differences are far greater again on an international scale. It could be argued that the rich have earned the right to that kind of influence, but only by assuming that people earn whatever money they get.

    Homo Economicus and the Illusion of Rationality

    A more subtle objection to market-based assignation of value is that in any given transaction, the price somebody pays for something is only loosely coupled with how much they value it. For one thing, the price paid only sets a lower limit on how much they value what they are buying at that time - presumably the thing is worth at least as much to them as what they paid, but sometimes people feel they have got a bargain. Other times, they may pay well over the odds for something because they feel like they need it immediately. In general, the price a person is willing to pay or accept for something is related to things like how soon they are going to get it and whether they have it already - a doughnut right now is worth far more than a doughnut tomorrow, and I'm not going to sell this mug I just bought for only a little bit more than I paid, even though I would be making a profit. As a rule people are not very rational, economically speaking, and they are not just randomly irrational but systematically so - meaning that no economic model can safely assume that people are even approximately rational on average.

    Even more importantly, purchasing decisions are made with reference to the buyer's perception of the market, not simply their individual feelings - maybe you feel like lawyers or sofas are terribly overpriced, but if you need one, you don't have much choice about paying the going rate. On the other hand, you might think smartphones are incredibly cheap considering how powerful they are, and the amount of labour and material resources that go into making them - but you are unlikely to pay much more than the market rate just on principle. Having said that, the notion of fair trade exists because people are sometimes willing to pay more than the market rate, if they think the markets are unjust and fail to reflect the true value and cost of a commodity. Prices are obviously related to supply and demand, but there is also a great deal of inertia and convention in pricing, and a good deal less logic than some economists might like to think.

    Theories of Value

    Taken together, all of these considerations make it clear that market evaluations are unlikely to be well correlated with what people consider to be good in the world. The relation between how much society values something and what the market says it is worth is convoluted and highly contingent. Unfortunately, formulating an alternative theory of value has proven to be enormously difficult. In the nineteenth century it was normal for economists to talk about two or three different ideas of value side by side - 'exchange value' (or price), 'labour value' (it would probably be more helpful to call this 'labour cost') and 'use value' (how much something is actually worth in practice), for example. The trouble was that assessing the value of the labour that went into something is terribly complex - Marx spent pages upon pages tying himself into knots trying to produce a coherent theory of this, and the end result was still not altogether convincing. 'Use value' is even more fraught - as far as I am aware, nobody has the slightest idea how to produce a unified numerical measure of it. Alternative theories of value had become quite unfashionable in economics by the late twentieth century.

    So if market evaluations epicly fail to reflect those of humans, and no other numerical measure of value is forthcoming, where does that leave us? I see two obvious options. One is to keep on treating markets as the ultimate arbiters of value, maybe trying to patch up their shortcomings here and there by assigning official monetary values to things that nobody is actually selling. The other is to ensure that more decisions are made by taking into account values that cannot be expressed in dollars. For one thing, we could encourage governments to look beyond strictly economic statistics - perhaps exploring the idea of prioritising Gross National Happiness over Gross Domestic Product, for example. We may need governments to rely a bit less on statistics of any sort, and to make more use of other faculties when weighing up decisions. We could also look at ways of encouraging organisations with goals other than the maximisation of profit. For some reason in the last few decades a perspective on businesses which officially prioritises returns for shareholders above all else has taken hold, and even been enshrined into law. This was almost certainly a mistake - there seems to be pretty solid evidence that it is not even good capitalism to pursue profits to the exclusion of what your business's other stakeholders want.

    What can we Do?

    There is considerable scope for encouraging businesses to value things other than profit, even without sacrificing their basic businesslike nature, although this may require some redefinition of official goals. There are also many kinds of economic and political structures where the main aim has never been the generation of profit - charities and other non-profit organisations, governments and their offshoots, and perhaps most interestingly, cooperatives of various sorts. Neoliberal capitalism is an ideology that holds that all of these sorts of power structures are inherently inferior to for-profit businesses, and hence many of the functions that governments have previously taken care of really ought to be sold into private hands as soon as possible. I have never seen anything that looked like a convincing argument for this position, but the main force opposing capitalism for most of the twentieth century was socialism, and after the Soviet Union's attempts at socialism definitively failed, the right wing has been able to present their neoliberal vision as somehow inevitable - even though this specific flavour of capitalism is no more than a few decades old. It should be acknowledged that government bureaucracies have often proven inefficient, but perhaps there are other ways to reduce this inefficiency besides replacing them with for-profit businesses accountable to nobody but their shareholders.

    I do not have a grand unified alternative vision of political economy to push, just a few basic points to make. Price is not the same as value, and profit is not the same as goodness; a political economy that disregards the differences between these things is badly broken; and the suggestion that there is no viable alternative is disingenuous. Leaving aside, for now, the possibility of overthrowing capitalism and starting from scratch, it is not difficult to imagine ways to make organisations of all sorts more accountable to the people affected by their decisions, more likely to make decisions to the benefit of more people. Fundamentally what I am arguing for here is democracy, but democracy of a sort that we have yet to build into our political economy, outside of the cooperative movement and a few other isolated cases. The use of LETS and other alternative schemes for recognising value may also help us to achieve more equitable and efficient economies. I am convinced that we can do much better than we have so far, and that yielding to neoliberal capitalism represents a hugely premature admission of defeat. The way I see it, we can stand up for what we really value, or we can close our eyes, cross our fingers and hope that what the market values happens to be close enough.

    References and other Food for Thought

    1. The methods to estimate the monetary value of the environment
    2. Contingent Valuation Method
    3. Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow
    4. Open Access: 'we no longer need expensive publishing networks'
    5. A Giant Statistical Round-Up of the Income Inequality Crisis in 16 Charts (USA)
    6. Income inequalities in the UK
    7. World Income Inequality
    8. Income inequality is killing capitalism
    9. Pathologies of Rational Choice Theory
    10. Bounded Rationality, Impatience and Intertemporal Choice
    11. Economyths: How the Science of Complex Systems is Transforming Economic Thought
    12. Theories of Value
    13. Gross National Happiness
    14. The Dumbest Idea in the World: Maximizing Shareholder Value
    15. Why don't bad ideas ever die?
    16. Time for a "Shift Change": Cooperatives and Resilience
    17. Fundamentals of Alternative Currencies and Value Measurement
    18. The Participatory Economics Project

    Val"ue (?), n. [OF. value, fr. valoir, p. p. valu, to be worth, fr. L. valere to be strong, to be worth. See Valiant.]


    The property or aggregate properties of a thing by which it is rendered useful or desirable, or the degree of such property or sum of properties; worth; excellence; utility; importance.

    Ye are all physicians of no value.
    Job xiii. 4.

    Ye are of more value than many sparrows.
    Matt. x. 31.

    Cæsar is well acquainted with your virtue,
    And therefore sets this value on your life.

    Before events shall have decided on the value of the measures.

    2. (Trade & Polit. Econ.)

    Worth estimated by any standard of purchasing power, especially by the market price, or the amount of money agreed upon as an equivalent to the utility and cost of anything.

    An article may be possessed of the highest degree of utility, or power to minister to our wants and enjoyments, and may be universally made use of, without possessing exchangeable value.

    Value is the power to command commodities generally.
    A. L. Chapin (Johnson's Cys.).

    Value is the generic term which expresses power in exchange.
    F. A. Walker.

    His design was not to pay him the value of his pictures, because they were above any price.

    ⇒ In political economy, value is often distinguished as intrinsic and exchangeable. Intrinsic value is the same as utility or adaptation to satisfy the desires or wants of men. Exchangeable value is that in an article or product which disposes individuals to give for it some quantity of labor, or some other article or product obtainable by labor; as, pure air has an intrinsic value, but generally not an exchangeable value.


    Precise signification; import; as, the value of a word; the value of a legal instrument Mitford.


    Esteem; regard. Dryden.

    My relation to the person was so near, and my value for him so great
    Bp. Burnet.

    5. (Mus.)

    The relative length or duration of a tone or note, answering to quantity in prosody; thus, a quarter note [&?;] has the value of two eighth notes [&?;].


    In an artistical composition, the character of any one part in its relation to other parts and to the whole; -- often used in the plural; as, the values are well given, or well maintained.


    Valor. [Written also valew.] [Obs.] Spenser.

    Value received, a phrase usually employed in a bill of exchange or a promissory note, to denote that a consideration has been given for it. Bouvier.


    © Webster 1913

    Val"ue (?), v. t. [imp. & p. p. Valued (?); p. pr. & vb. n. Valuing.]


    To estimate the value, or worth, of; to rate at a certain price; to appraise; to reckon with respect to number, power, importance, etc.

    The mind doth value every moment.

    The queen is valued thirty thousand strong.

    The king must take it ill,
    That he's so slightly valued in his messenger.

    Neither of them valued their promises according to rules of honor or integrity.


    To rate highly; to have in high esteem; to hold in respect and estimation; to appreciate; to prize; as, to value one for his works or his virtues.

    Which of the dukes he values most.


    To raise to estimation; to cause to have value, either real or apparent; to enhance in value. [Obs.]

    Some value themselves to their country by jealousies of the crown.
    Sir W. Temple.


    To be worth; to be equal to in value. [Obs.]

    The peace between the French and us not values
    The cost that did conclude it.

    Syn. -- To compute; rate; appraise; esteem; respect; regard; estimate; prize; appreciate.


    © Webster 1913

    Val"ue (?), n.



    That property of a color by which it is distinguished as bright or dark; luminosity.


    Degree of lightness as conditioned by the presence of white or pale color, or their opposites.

    2. (Math.)

    Any particular quantitative determination; as, a function's value for some special value of its argument.

    3. [pl.]

    The valuable ingredients to be obtained by treatment from any mass or compound; specif., the precious metals contained in rock, gravel, or the like; as, the vein carries good values; the values on the hanging walls.


    © Webster 1913

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