Subjective vs. Objective Value: The Economist and the Philosopher
Economists and philosophers use the word “value” differently. Philosophy professor Aeon J. Skoble points out that while economics discusses value as a subjective thing, philosophy tends to address value as objective. Rights, for example, are something everybody has to have. There’s no such thing as “human rights” unless every human has them. That’s as objective as you can get.
When economists talk of subjective value, they’re speaking about the way the price system works. When economists say value is subjective, this means, in the philosopher’s language, that people have different tastes and preferences and people value things differently. The way to know what something is worth is to say what it is worth to someone.
If that’s true, this explains why the philosopher’s conception of objective value is a good one. If people have different tastes and preferences, we need an objective moral framework to live together in society. We have to have an objective way of knowing what to expect from each other and how to treat each other. Something like rights provides an objective framework for social living amongst people with different tastes and preferences.