Sign-Value Application in Subjective Value Theory

An Eight Letter series

Letter 1

From: Craig Duddy

Sent: Monday, August 24, 2020 9:27 PM

To: wblock@loyno.edu

Subject: Sign-Value application in subjective value theory

Dear Dr. Walter Block,

I am a 15 year old student at Calderglen High School currently residing within East Kilbride, Scotland. Over the past few months I have had a fantastic opportunity in the form of the ‘quarantine’ to read an immense amount of literature generally surrounding the areas of economics and philosophy, I have recently been reading works of more generally regarded in the area of ‘post-modern’ philosophers such as Deleuze and Baudrillard.

I have specifically been reading into Baudrillard’s conception of ‘sign-value’ and it has caused me a great deal of thought specifically on it’s implications upon the ‘Austrian’ conception of value, I had thought for a while that while Baudrillard presented this concept of sign-value more as an aspect of our current society and its tendencies to consumerism to critique the use and validity of the law of value, it also could be used as a critique of the ‘Austrian’ conception of value.

This led me to believe that in our current formulation of the political and economic system, the law of value in the way presented by Marx almost definitely could not be correct, but that also a full out explanation of value from a position of purely subjective evaluation, as is generally presented by ‘Austrians’ such as myself, could also not be correct.

I have been led to believe however that my conception of Baudrillard solidifying a solid justification of what I described to be a ‘quasi-subjective’ theory of value was actually wrong, and rather these ‘signs and symbols’ that establish further value when attached to a commodity can actually just be represented in the formulation of what I believe was tilted by Rothbard as ‘psychic-value.’

I believe the thing that is causing trouble in my understanding of this formulation of value rests within the influence that society places upon an individual to solidify the value within these signs, almost like society does with the value of money.

I am not entirely sure how close to your general field of work this comes but I am very curious to hear your thoughts on this as you are one of my biggest inspirations and helped guide me further into a more logically sound understanding of libertarianism.

My main question here is if we can consider Baudrillard’s conception of sign-value within our society to be just another form of subjective evaluation, or if we can consider it strong enough evidence that the influence of the external environment affects the evaluation of the individual so much so that it can no longer rationally be considered a product of the individuals judgment itself.

Thank you very much for your time if you do read this,

Craig Duddy.

Letter 2

From: Walter Block

Sent: 26 August 2020 01:05

To: Craig Duddy

Subject: RE: Sign-Value application in subjective value theory

Dear Craig:

I’ll substantively respond to your fascinating letter on one condition: you have to promise to fully consider enrolling at Loyola U when the time comes. Deal? See below for the case in favor of Loyola.

Best regards,

Walter

Letter 3

From: Craig Duddy

Sent: Wednesday, August 26, 2020 12:31 PM

To: Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu>

Subject: RE: Sign-Value application in subjective value theory

Dear Dr. Walter Block,

Thank you for taking time out of your day to respond to me, it is very highly appreciated.

I will absolutely fully consider enrolling to Loyola U, I had great hope it would be possible to study somewhere overseas previously and it would be an honour to work under someone such as yourself, you have my full guarantee I will fully consider it.

Letter 4

From: Walter Block

Sent: 26 August 2020 22:17

To: Craig Duddy

Subject: RE: Sign-Value application in subjective value theory

Dear Craig:

Here’s my substantive response.

Sorry, I know nothing of “Baudrillard’s conception of ‘sign-value’” So, I looked it up here: https://www.google.com/search?q=Baudrillard%E2%80%99s+conception+of+%E2%80%98sign-value%E2%80%99&rlz=1C1CHBD_enUS790US790&oq=Baudrillard%E2%80%99s+conception+of+%E2%80%98sign-value%E2%80%99+&aqs=chrome..69i57j33l4.1977j0j15&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

What I get out of this from a very brief reading is that for some people prestige is a motivation of theirs in their choice of purchases. That seems correct to me, but, hardly earth-shattering.

Yes, “we can consider Baudrillard’s conception of sign-value within our society to be just another form of subjective evaluation”

No “we can’t consider it strong enough evidence that the influence of the external environment affects the evaluation of the individual so much so that it can no longer rationally be considered a product of the individuals judgment itself.” I think this second claim is nonesense

Best regards,

Walter

Letter 5

From: Craig Duddy

Sent: Thursday, August 27, 2020 2:42 PM

To: Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu>

Subject: RE: Sign-Value application in subjective value theory

Dear Dr. Walter Block,

Thank you for your response, it is highly appreciated.

Generally, I would agree with your position on this, it seemed to just be a further implementation of Rothbard’s conception of ‘psychic value’ which would be classed under the framework of subjective.

However, Baudrillard also introduces this conception in which he calls ‘the code’ which posits a sort of ‘programming of subjects’ type of idea within the current political and economic climate.

He infers a sort of modelling, reproduction and influencing within social relations across different spheres of reality itself, creating this sort of appearance to the subject that we are in a matrix as such.

All our moves are predetermined by ‘the code’ itself, in which we have zero control over, it is subject to the system and only the system, and as we are reproduced to be subjects with identity intrinsically ingrained within the system we may have no control over this.

He later goes on to explain how this places a shroud on the ‘real’ itself and rather places upon the individual a state of ‘hyper-reality’ which is an abstraction upon reality itself, allowing for the complete and total control in social spheres by this system.

It can be represented through an analogy of the subjects reproduced into this system almost being like pawns on a chessboard, only to be subject to control by the overarching system that transcends the frameworks imposed by the ‘matrix.’

It’s certainly an interesting conceptualisation and it would be great to hear any thoughts you may have.

Letter 6

From: Walter Block

Sent: 27 August 2020 22:49

To: Craig Duddy

Subject: RE: Sign-Value application in subjective value theory

Dear Craig:

This guy sounds like a determinist. I favor the free will position:

Van Schoedlandt, et al, 2016; Block, 2015.

Van Schoelandt, Chad, Ivan Jankovic and Walter E. Block. 2016. “Rejoinder on Free Will, Determinism, Libertarianism and Austrian Economics.” Dialogue, Issue 2; http://www.uni-svishtov.bg/dialog/title.asp?lang=en&title=565http://141.164.71.80/exchange/walterblock/Inbox/RE:%20Rejoinder%20on%20Free%20Will,%20Determinism,%20Libertarianism%20and%20Austrian%20Economics.EML/1_multipart_xF8FF_2_p565__DialogueBook2eng2016_81_95.pdf/C58EA28C-18C0-4a97-9AF2-036E93DDAFB3/p565__DialogueBook2eng2016_81_95.pdf?attach=1;

http://www.uni-svishtov.bg/dialog/title.asp?title=565http://www.academia.edu/27719232/Rejoinder_on_Free_Will_Determinism_Libertarianism_and_Austrian_Economics

Block, Walter E. 2015. “Free will, determinism, libertarianism and Austrian economics” Dialogue, Issue 3, p.1; http://connection.ebscohost.com/c/articles/110798998/free-will-determinism-libertarianism-austrian-economics;

Best regards,

Walter

Letter 7

From: Craig Duddy

Sent: Friday, August 28, 2020 2:01 PM

To: Walter Block <wblock@loyno.edu>

Subject: RE: Sign-Value application in subjective value theory

Dear Dr. Walter Block,

I would agree with your position, in terms of the ‘free will’ vs ‘determinism’ debate I generally title myself within what I have called ‘transcendental libertarianism.’

My position generally is that I recognise that some actions are a consequence of free will itself, whereas others are out with the individuals’ control, such things as love in my view cannot be conceived to be in complete control of the individual.

However, there is one section of your ontology I would disagree with, I would say the concept of Cartesian Dualism is a valid concept.

I like the type of ‘subject/object’ dichotomy as a method for establishing an intersubjectively ascertainable link between the ‘self’ and the ‘body’ through Locke’s thesis of homesteading.

I’d generally justify my position by acknowledging as one grows older, we see subsequently an increasing development for the individual to establish control over their own body, or what I’d dub to be an ‘awakening’ of the self in a sense.

In consequence to this, that individual in question will further develop closer to his maximum capacity for self-ownership and as this ‘awakening’ continues to occur the parents are also further devoid of their ‘trustee role’ over that child.

So then as that child reaches his maximum capacity for self-ownership the parents are no longer justified in exerting coercion over him.

I especially liked Kinsella’s take on this, which is outlined in the following quote;

“When the child ‘homesteads’ or ‘appropriates’ his own body by establishing the requisite objective link sufficient to establish self-ownership, the child becomes an adult, so to speak, and now has a better claim to his body than his parents. “ (Kinsella 2006)

But to get back to the original point, I don’t think Baudrillard is a naturalistic determinist in the way most are, I believe he would only be a determinist under the guise that this consumerism guiding society itself has established a ‘hyper-reality’ that allows for complete control over all social spheres.

So as Baudrillard generally was referring to neoliberalism as a social concept as well as political, economic, etc this is why he puts it at fault or classes it as the ‘transcendental system’ responsible for the reproduction of subjects with identities intrinsically ingrained within the system itself, unable to escape ‘the code’ within the manifestation of consumerism.

Letter 8

Dear Craig:

I am in broad agreement with you on this. Murray Rothbard makes much the same argument, correct I think, as does Stephan Kinsella

Best regards,

Walter

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3:33 am on December 6, 2020

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