Minding the Borderlands

Mark Koester (@markwkoester) on the art of travel and technology

How Much Is My Time Worth? : “My Time,” the Economic Ultimate Valeur

My working time in the public world of utility contributes to some kind of economic production of a valuable object, a thing of worth, value or valeur. Equally, my leisure time in the individualistically private or communally shared world of expression contributes to a different kind of introspective production through the creative production of valeur. Similarly, the way I spend my time in general—either as my working time or as my leisure time—constitutes the production of valeur, as a concept of worth and as objects of value. These are dense words for a difficult description of the maddening economic process we have before us and for which we have yet to truly frame accurately or even calculate approximately in our base numbers.

These are still hesitant descriptions and lost wanderings for a rather simple question: How much is my time worth?

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The economic world seems out of control for the moment. I’m no economist outside of the Freakonomics, but it is clear that people are nervous about money. Or perhaps their worries about money are really worries about what is valuable, what has value? Maybe value has lost its value?

There are so many confusing and conflicting economic “ideas” floating around it is becoming difficult to even to describe “it,” let alone understand “it”–“it” being a model of what is economics and what is happening economically. Twisted-up ideas in tongue-tied words.

Some are talking about subprime loans and the (possible—err—probable) economic recession in the United States. China is pushing into the economic megasphere. India is blooming in way we don’t yet as Westerners understand. Everything seems hard to figure out.

The Europeans have created in less than a few decades a communal monetary and economic system. The euro rises as the dollar sinks. And yet some have mentioned the dangers in how the euro may be getting too valuable.

The French are debating on a government and occasionally personal level their pouvoir d’achat or buying power, because as food and logging prices increase, their salaries have remained the same, leaving them with modified lifestyle choices.

Maybe I’m getting myself too confused by the mathematical and even scientific domain of economics. Maybe I haven’t figured it out yet. I have understood it yet. Its not the economic world that is flawed, it’s me who doesn’t understand. Beginners can get lost in the dreamy sky before building the earthly base. But I’m not even sure economics has built that base or that economics has understood the phenomenons that are occurring, often on the ground and in the sky.

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Economics is often described as a mathematical model based on scientific research to determine what will happen in certain systems, namely economic systems of production. Economics is about numbers and predictions. Economics is a historical science that looks on the past happenings in order to foresee and predict future happenings. Economics objectively looks at the past to predict some necessary to come, to be or to happen. But this approach to economics as a simply calculation from past to future is missing something, because all economic happenings occur in the present, namely in the present and practical creation through “work.”

Economics isn’t simply an objective past to future happening described through models and numbers but an engaged, human doing in the present with and without our maps and mappings. Economics is historical only the sense that past economic events and production consisted of people actually engaged in their present doings, makings and workings. We are the agents and the shepherds of this world of our creating and maintaining, not simply its results. Economics is subjective.

If economics is a human description for a human production, limited only by cosmic, earthly and biological constraints, then the human in economics is an actor and not simply an action. Thus, economics becomes a pratique, a practical performance. Economics becomes our doing and making, our a-ffaire.

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If economics is ultimately not simply a mathematical model of happenings but a creational doing, then economics could be accurately described as our genuine human affaire and, ethically, our active responsibility. Economics isn’t numbers but us with others in the productive world. No, better yet, economics is the worldly numbers of us others with the entire operation being determined by practical agents in terrestrial equations. Words still slip around an accurate description.

Economics: a human doing, a human affaire. So what is the greatest unique affaire of humans? Time.

Time is still a difficult concept or happening or doing to understand philosophically. Even though many definitions, arguments and counter arguments abode, time remains an ambiguous, subjective happening and doing. Time is our experiential affaire in which our lives are formulated and are played out.

Across time, in an individual and communal sense, our productive lives will be taken up and put into the creation of value, worth or valeur. Our time will be spent in creating, doing, and experiencing. Our time will be taken up and engaged in work of worth. All objects of creation have value put upon them for different reasons. But ultimately there is only one passage through which all value creation must pass: time.

Phenomenologically, time is the ultimate horizon through which all valeur passes and must be transcribed. In fact, even one’s life, my life is taken up by time, and value is historically transferred upon it. Like all objects of creation, my life is subjected to the production of value through the passage of time.

Time is a very precious “thing,” because it is limited in an existential way and is also so fundamental to everything productive; without time there would be no production, no “me” as a creative and narrative production through time.

Time is imagined and narrated in terms of value: *Time is wasted. Time is spent. Time is put to the use of. Time is ours. Time is our work’s, our boss’s, our community’s. Time is mine. *

Time is tied up intimately with our lives—as production of the public world and as creation of private and communal worlds. We are never outside of time. We are never outside or beyond the passing of our time.

My time, our time, time is one of the must central concerns or affaires of our economic and human valeur. Time is all we have. And, as such, the question How much is my time worth? booms profoundly to the echoing core of our biological and sociological muscles, bones and souls, because time is, in fact, what we are worth.