• Benj96
    611
    Can we put a monetary value on the life of an individual? Are some individuals more valuable than others in this respect? And is that moral?

    We know insurance companies use risk, assets, occupation and interpersonal relationships etc to place a worth on the life of the insured it’s just economics/ business for them however it seems somewhat unsettling that an individual life may not have as much value as we would like to believe and more so the disparity in different peoples worth in this regard.
  • Paulm12
    67
    I read in an economics textbook that the average predicted value of a human life in the US is around $50,000, despite the fact that we like to think of life as unquantifiable. Obviously depending on the region, cost of living, etc this number may change. Governments actually calculate this and use it to make decisions like "should I put in an expensive traffic light here that could save more lives or just some stop signs."
    It's an interesting question to ask. Would you press a button, causing a random person to die, but receive some sum of money (See Button Button)? Should a younger person have more value than an older one? What about the value of unborn or potential life?
    I think it is important for companies and governments to do this, despite it seeming unsettling. If someone cannot afford a medical treatment, is society/everyone willing to pay for it? What if it isn't a life saving treatment, but one that will enhance their life or make it happier, or potentially extend it?
    I think it was Adam Smith who made the analogy that our moral concern over avoiding a paper cut is often more than suffering occurring in far away places.
  • Wittgenstein
    442
    In a worldly sense, Your value in a system is the cost of removing you from the system. Take an F35 pilot , he's obviously more valuable to the army (system) than the average infantryman

    But in a spiritual sense, your value is only known to God

    This question is too broad so it sends my mind spinning in all directions
  • Cuthbert
    750
    I think it is important for companies and governments to do this, despite it seeming unsettling. If someone cannot afford a medical treatment, is society/everyone willing to pay for it? What if it isn't a life saving treatment, but one that will enhance their life or make it happier, or potentially extend it?Paulm12

    I agree. If we refuse to answer those questions explicitly then we will answer them implicitly by how we share out healthcare and other resources.

    I think the philosophical problem with putting a monetary 'value' on human life is that money is a medium of exchange for tradable benefits such as goods or services. But life itself is not tradable. Each person's life is of infinite value to them. 'Infinite' here means that no quantity of other benefits can compensate for the loss of a person's life because the possession of life is a necessary condition of that person's enjoying any benefits at all. "What is my life worth to me?" is a quite different question from "What is my life worth to a limited health service?" I think those questions get conflated, which is the source of the unsettling nature of the general idea of a 'value of a human life'.
  • javi2541997
    1.5k


    We cannot put monetary value into our lives because we are not worthy of it. The life of a person is worthless since they born until they die.
    Whenever I think in the act of survival it only comes to my mind pain and uncertainty.
    I guess you cannot satisfy those feelings with just a few bucks. It is impossible. Some states and entrepreneurs overrated money and the monetary system. I guess it is due to speculation.
  • Benj96
    611
    But life itself is not tradableCuthbert

    I’m not sure if I agree that life is not tradable. Allow me to elaborate in a few different trains do thought:
    1). By donating one of a pair for f vital organs for example a kidney to my brother - I have in essence exchanged mortality with him in that my mortality increases as I only have one kidney and no backup if shit hits the fan. But his life is extended by having one functioning kidney as opposed to two non functioning ones (certain death)

    2). The subject of Natural selection - competition over the elements that sustain life (water, shelter, food - all physical objects - which are subject to trade, exchange and theft etc means that the ability to live fundamentally depends on the balance between abundance and scarcity. My chance to continue surviving in that case can be exchanged indirectly in the form of say a well of potable water which could be stolen from me by someone equally in need.

    3). The ability to purchase an assassin or militia, the ability to encourage or carry out genocide means that money, power influence and politics can indeed end or sustain lives. Life can be traded through our actions. For example I could in theory exchange the lives of all the citizens of a city for total mass destruction through the advent of nuclear weaponry if I was enough of a headcase to do such a thing.

    So I think there are several ways in which life, death and material objects can be traded in each others place through action
  • Agent Smith
    4.4k
    Can we put a monetary value on the life of an individual? — Benj96

    We can and it has been done! Google for more!

    It began way back in history: People (outlaws) had what is called a bounty on their heads!

    Sign outside a salon

    BILLY THE KID
    WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE
    REWARD $1000

    Thereabouts!
  • Cuthbert
    750
    Life can be traded through our actionsBenj96

    Trading an increased risk of death is possible (kidney example). Trading the means of life is possible (water example). Trading someone else's life is possible (assassin example).

    Trading my own life is not possible. I can't exchange my life for anything. Being dead puts me beyond the possibility of taking anything in exchange. The value of my life to you (or the health service or any other party) is in that way incomparable with its value to me.

    By contrast, I can trade my car, kidney, etc, take something in exchange and enjoy the benefit if I make a good deal.
  • Benj96
    611
    Trading my own life is not possible. I can't exchange my life for anything. Being dead puts me beyond the possibility of taking anything in exchange.Cuthbert

    Well the suicidal would beg to differ they would say they are trading their life for an end to suffering, for mercy or the peace of oblivion
  • Cuthbert
    750
    True. That would mean my life is worth the relief from unbearable suffering - I will avoid the suffering even if that means foregoing life. But who is the suicide doing that trade with? My point was about money as a means of exchange between individuals - we can trade money and goods. The suicide renounces life, but doesn't trade it with anyone. Nobody else gets his life once he's given it up. Unlike, say, swapping a car for cash.
  • Alkis Piskas
    918

    Can we put a monetary value on the life of an individual?Benj96
    Are you a businessman? It's them mainly who are valuing people on a monetary basis. They have to. Entrepreneurs have to pay money for their employees and they expect that they would get back some money as a result of their production. No one would like to keep an unproductive employee in his business. Also they usually pay more money, offer bonuses, commissions, etc. to the most productive ones --although this not always the case.

    But outside the business environment, I don't think that people value others on a monetary value. Far from it! There are innumerable things based on which each one of us values others. I believe I don't have to give examples. It would be too mundane. And this, on a personal basis.

    On a general basis, I thing that we cannot value a human life. Everyone human life is valuable. Even that of a criminal. Imagine what a huge win would be to reinstate a criminal case to a normal, virtuous one. And this can and has been done a lot of times. These people are only heavily deranged. But authorities don't have the means and facilities or even patience to achieve such a "restoration" more often. They prefer to just get rid of these "scumbags" by throwing them to prison or hang them.

    Every human life is valuable.
  • 180 Proof
    8.4k
    Can we put a monetary value on the life of an individual?Benj96
    Yes, for instance at a slave auction.

    Are some individuals more valuable than others in this respect?
    Given the comparative scarcity of the productive, or desired, attributes on offer, setting a "value" – price – depends on what the slave market will bear.

    And is that moral?
    Slaves^^ are individuals (by force or with consent) treated – used – by others as mere means-to-ends (pace Kant).

    ^^prisoners, captives, disorganized labor, non-commissioned military, debt-peons, junkies, cultists, conspiracy theorists, vidiot gamers, spouses ...
  • ZzzoneiroCosm
    2.1k
    Can we put a monetary value on the life of an individual?Benj96

    Are you buying or selling?

    It's a bull-bear-bull-bear market, depending on the moods and whims of the political backdrop.
  • NOS4A2
    5.8k


    Only if you see them as a means-to-an-end. But as an end-in-themselves they are priceless. How can one put a price on something that is original?
  • Benj96
    611
    Slaves^^ are individuals (by force or with consent) treated – used – by others as mere means-to-ends (pace Kant).180 Proof

    Interesting and what say you of the difference between those that are slaves and have their accommodation and food provided for them so that they may be forced to work for a master and those who are paid just enough (minimum wage) so that they may struggle to pay for accommodation and food and get stuck in a vicious unyielding cycle of depending on said job that keeps them in a financially precarious position where they’re unable to risk changing lifestyle/ cannot afford the time to do anything to better their situation. As is the case in many dead end jobs in the world
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