The Price is (very rarely) Right

Violet Fink, Guest Writer

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Despite the common phrase “the best things in life are free,” I believe that everything does have a price. Or, rather, everything has a value assigned to it. This value may not always be one that is given or received in terms of actual monetary currency (which has been assigned value as well, despite simply being glorified pieces of paper), but there is a price tag attached nonetheless.

At times, it can be difficult to discern the value of certain things. There are many variables that may come into play, making it challenging to understand how an action can be equally as costly as a new car. However, by isolating a few of the variables, it becomes easier to understand.

In the case of an apple, for example, it is clear than it has a monetary fee. This is generally a fee which we are willing to accept and pay in full, exchanging our currency for fruit. However, by choosing to eat an apple, we are making a decision which has a value of its own in addition to an opportunity cost. The term “opportunity cost” refers to the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen. In other words, by eating this apple, which has a monetary fee and a value, an individual may have a high opportunity cost for not indulging in a package of strawberries with an equal monetary fee and greater value instead.

Things become slightly more convoluted when the decision being made no longer involves items that have a monetary equivalent. If the decision is one of ethics, the price of an action may differ from person to person. Take the case of the split train tracks with five people on one side and a single individual on the other. If a train is barreling down the tracks towards the five people, and you have a lever in front of you making it possible to save those five and kill only the individual, what action do you take? What happens if there are ten people on the track? Fifteen? Every person has a number at which they might be willing to pull that lever and sacrifice the few to save the many. However, there is a hidden price in the midst of this moral struggle. How will your choice affect you after you have decided? Are people capable of living with themselves after choosing inaction and allowing the train to continue on its course? On the other hand, are people capable of forgiving themselves for making the decision to end another’s life? Regardless of the number of people that have been saved, it can be difficult to live with the cost of our actions.

Everything has a price. Each breath we take, each word we say, each instinct we act upon. All of it. Some prices are easier to pay than others. Some fees are low enough to persuade us of a greater value. Some costs we decide we can live with.

What’s your selling point?

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The Price is (very rarely) Right