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  • Say you go to a store and buy something for $20. That means you value the object more than you value your $20. Essentially, you’re saying “I would gladly trade my twenty dollars for this object, since I consider the object to be more valuable to me than my twenty dollars.”

    The store, on the other hand, thinks the opposite. The reason they’re selling the object in the first place is that they value the object at less than $20. They would be happy to have your $20 instead of their object, because they obviously consider the object less valuable than your $20.

    If the object had an exact value all by itself, this wouldn’t happen—in fact, there would be no such thing as an economy, or stores, or anything like that at all. If the object was actually worth exactly $20, there would be no point in buying it for $20—you’d be just as happy to keep your $20, since you had valued it exactly the same as the object. Moreover, the store wouldn’t have any reason to sell the product either, since they’d be just as happy to keep the object as take your $20, since they’re worth exactly the same. People set values for objects that are convenient for them, and relevant to how much they would rather have something else—which in this day and age, we call money.

    Even before money, in a barter economy, this is clear. A thousand years ago, a man trades a cow for three chickens. Which one is “more valuable”? Clearly, to the man who bought the cow, the cow is more valuable than the chickens. Clearly, to the person who sold the cow, the chickens were more valuable. Neither the cow or the chickens actually have an exact value baked right into their very existence—nothing does. Everything is only as valuable as the value you set for it in your mind.

    This goes to remind us that “value”, or “worth”, is not a solidly existing thing, something intrinsic to the object. It exists only in the human mind. Everything, every star in the sky, every product in every store, every tree growing out of the fertile green earth, is worth exactly the same amount, from a cosmic perspective. No two atoms in the universe have two different “values”—a concept that exists only in the human mind.
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