Value of Nothing

Friday, January 22, 2010

To Raj Patel, visiting scholar at UC Berkeley's Center for African Studies, our faith in prices as a way of valuing the world is misplaced. In his new book The Value of Nothing: How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy, he discusses the true social and ecological costs of everything from a hamburger to public health initiatives.


Raj Patel

Comments [23]

robredo from Brooklyn

what's the hidden cost of subsidizing lefty professors who come up with mindless theories?...with this guys silly ideas will be back to the caves with spears and knives in no time

Jan. 22 2010 08:55 PM
hjs from 11211

that's very hopeful...

Jan. 22 2010 03:17 PM
Jgarbuz from Queens, NY

Before there were free markets there were slave markets. When we freed the slaves under the communist systems in Russia, China, India and Eastern Europe, they became free to compete and trade with us. This tsunami of freedom has had some temporarily deleterious effects on the American middle class which had known little competition since WWII. So yes, there is greater competition for resources today, but there is also greater innovation going on all over to find ways to overcome the temporary scarcity of resources. The use of silicon in electronics created our modern technology revolution, making communications ubiquitious for almost all, and the use of new discoveries being made now will overcome the temporary shortages of today, provided we do not destroy the planet before we get there.

Jan. 22 2010 11:57 AM
Amy from Manhattan

What about the other way around? How much *less* is the real cost of a rechargeable battery vs. a nonrechargeable one? An organic cotton T-shirt (certainly more expensive in stores) than one made from conventionally grown cotton? Or (my favorite) organic fair-trade chocolate vs. Nestle's (which gets an F from the Better World Shopping Guide [])?

Jan. 22 2010 11:55 AM
Paul from Orange, NJ

Great segment Brian - you should consider inviting Mr. Patel back and giving him more time to illustrate his point about hidden costs. It is clear to me that listener Cameron did not understand Mr. Patel's argument (or did not want to even accept the premise).

Jan. 22 2010 11:54 AM
rk from williamsburg, brooklyn

ugh. seriously hate when you have really really ignorant callers yapping about stuff that they clearly know nothing. cameron was so lame. "iowa produces most of our beef so we dont destroy the rainforest with our hamburger consumption". such ignorance is annoying but esp when you let the ignorance ramble and ramble and ramble on....i agree that you should challenge people a bit more when they are clearly uninformed...

Jan. 22 2010 11:53 AM
camille from Brooklyn

Conversely, the housing bubble caused the cost of houses and apartments to go up way out of proportion to what most people can afford.
In new york, many apartments have been cut in half and are rented at full price market value.

Jan. 22 2010 11:50 AM
hjs from 11211

caller camron, please run for president we deserve leaders like u!

Jan. 22 2010 11:45 AM
dan from chelsea, ny

how bout the conditions of illegal immigrants working in the meatpacking industries under horrific conditions and wages

Jan. 22 2010 11:44 AM
NeitherHereNorThere from Manhattan

How did the last caller Cameron not comprehend it? It's all very logical and makes sense...whether or not we take it serious is the question. It's not a debatable topic either, lots of markets are subsidized and has a negative impact.

Jan. 22 2010 11:44 AM
kai from NJ-NYC

Clean, high quality freshwater is probably the most undervalued resource in the United States. In the U.S., we don't actually pay for for water itself, but for the infrastructure, energy requirements, and maintenance of the water provision and treatment system.

Mr. Patel is quite correct about agricultural runoff from fertilizers into waterways which create hypoxia (oxygen-free dead zones in the water) that then feed into the Gulf of Mexico.

Jan. 22 2010 11:44 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Thanks to Raj for his statement about the price of "free" trade. Somehow its advocates don't realize (or don't acknowledge) that a market dominated by a monopoly/oligopoly is no more free than one controlled by a gov't.

Jan. 22 2010 11:43 AM

Raj Patel is a hero.

However one problem is trying to 'monetize' the full cost of things- money can be manipulated. A better system would be energy accounting, a system suggested by Howard Odum in the 1970s.

Also, how about the loss of property values in the vicinity of a CAFO that makes the cheap burger possible? Yet another 'externalized' cost.

Jan. 22 2010 11:42 AM
Ray Gardner from work

So how much do the Indians calculate is the basic price of the birth of a a human being?

Jan. 22 2010 11:42 AM
Leah from Manhattan

Cameron is uninformed! Brian, WHY do you let people ramble on with their ignorance? It would be one thing if you confronted their misinformation, but you simply allow them to keep talking. I think it's patronizing and subtly elitist for you not to confront misinformed callers.

Jan. 22 2010 11:42 AM
Merrill Clark from NY, NY

I think this discussion assumes the free market approach generally establishes prices but argues that in some instances, the free market needs to be tweaked. i.e. cigarettes. We impose taxes on cigarettes to allegedly reduce demand. What about higher taxes on alcohol?

Jan. 22 2010 11:42 AM
Sam from Brooklyn

The real cost of a treat from the ice cream trucks that idle all day on our streets should take into account the exhaust that pollutes the air and causes asthma in the neighborhoods they're "serving", and the blaring music that lowers the quality of life in those neighborhoods. I'd say an ice cream cone should cost about $45.

Jan. 22 2010 11:41 AM
hjs from 11211

OIL = US taxpayers support oil dictators to keep oil prices low

Jan. 22 2010 11:41 AM

That last caller was one of the weakest ever. Totally clueless.

Jan. 22 2010 11:41 AM
Vance from North Plainfield

All you have to do is look at the grocery store shelves full of junk food all made from subsidized grains. Its no wonder the stuff is so cheap and that the country is suffering as a result from a health stand point.

Jan. 22 2010 11:40 AM
david from harlem

t-shirts (clothes in general), but cotton t-shirts certainly must have a huge impact environmentally and in terms of labor.

Jan. 22 2010 11:39 AM
easynow from brooklyn

this man speaks sense, I like it.

Jan. 22 2010 11:38 AM
BL Show from WNYC Studios

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Jan. 22 2010 10:07 AM

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