Sunday, October 30, 2011

Time, Value, and the Answer - Part 2

Bob Fiske
May, 2009

(Continued from "Time, Value, and the Answer - Part 1")


One area in which current account methods are inadequate regards time.  There are two ways in which time is accounted for.

First, time can be converted into monetary units, such as when a person works for an hourly wage.  If you work 10 hours for a wage of $10/hr., then the value of your time will be converted into $100.  A corollary of this is "piecework" in which the accomplishment of a specified unit of work is exchanged for an agreed upon equivalent amount of money.  Thus, many salespeople work on commission in which each completed sale earns them a fee or percentage of the sale.  Somewhat related to this is the "bonus", in which an employer rewards a "dependent" for overall exemplary work practices.

The other method is the "deadline".  Accomplishing a set amount of work by an agreed-upon mark on a timeline is valued as good and can result in "reward".  Missing the deadline is negatively valued and is usually associated with some penalty.

Much of what the contemporary culture values is built around these two time valuation methods.  Yet, this conversion to money fails to account for many qualities of time that have value.

Here are some examples.  The amount of time that a person spends on restoration or spiritual reconnection.  The amount of time a person spends learning about his/her inner psyche.  The amount of time a person spends on setting personal goals and evaluating satisfaction about the direction of her/his life.  The amount of time spent in appreciation of moments of good fortune.  The amount of time a parent spends shaping the lives of his/her child(ren).

So, once again I imagine an alternative time accounting system that includes both the "tangible time" activities (convertible to money), as well as the "intangible time" activities.  The question revolves around this fact: clearly, intangible time has value.  However, in a capitalistic system that rewards tangible time, tangible objects and monetary value, the satisfaction derived from intangible time activities is placed into competition with tangible time activities.

For example, if a person values physical fitness, she/he must do these sorts of activities on her/his "own time".  Because intangible time is "devalued" in the money-driven capitalistic system people's behavior can be shaped in the direction of ignoring these activities.  Over time, this will lead many people into a psychologically (and perhaps also physically) unbalanced state.  Thus, it is possible that certain states of health and disease might be related to the skewed value system of money-oriented time.

Suppose there were, in this new system, a comparison of tangible time activities to intangible time activities.  Perhaps this would result in in "tradeoff tables".  These tables would show the equivalence of tangible time for a given activity to the amount of time devoted to an intangible activity.  This is perhaps similar to the foreign exchange market in which a "dense" currency, such as the Euro, is rated against a "light" currency, such as the Mexican peso.  In this relative valuation, a single unit of dense currency can "buy" many units of light currency, while a single unit of light currency will "buy" a small fraction of a single unit of the dense currency.

So, by way of example, the tradeoff table might show that an hour of physical therapy for a back injury would be dense compared to an hour of work time.  At the same time, an hour of taking one's children to a movie might be light in the tradeoff table compared with visiting one's parents.  In this new accounting system, different "time currencies" could be literally traded.  Thus, visiting one's ailing elderly parent could actually offset a portion of one's tangible work time.

This is clearly a departure from the existing capitalistic time accounting system.  It represents a MAJOR SHIFT IN VALUES.  The current system would regard as crazy the proposition that an employee should be paid a fraction of a work hour's value for visiting an ailing parent.  The closest the current system comes to this is that some employers give a certain number of flex hours per year that workers can use, at their option, for time-off activities.  This, however, is a far cry from the sweeping tradeoff table for ALL tangible and intangible time activities.

(To be continued...)

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