100 Words On: The Science of Defining What’s Truly Priceless

Some things are utterly impossible to put a price on. For example, regardless what’s offered, no rational person would ever sell their family. It’s also impossible to put a monetary value on good health — let alone human life. Even so, that didn’t stop Stanford economists from determining several years ago that the value of human life was roughly $129,000 — a finding which brings to mind Oscar Wilde’s observation that cynics know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

The bottom line: Ultimately, the price of everything is in the eye of the beholder. Whether it’s correct, however, is another matter altogether.

Photo Credit: The Honeybee


  1. 4

    Jambalaya says

    “Whether it’s correct, however, is another matter altogether.”

    As long as it’s correct to the beholder, what else matters?

  2. 9

    Jambalaya says

    Well Len, as long as my taxi driver drives me safely and efficiently to my destination and his fare meter is working properly, his status as an economist/philosopher/lawyer/ditch digger/etc has no meaning to me whatsoever. :)

  3. 10


    I think they’re off by an order of magnitude, at least as defined by my life insurance broker.

    I also think the price would vary depending on the age of that life too. Would you pay the same for a newborn vs grandma betty? Unbelievable that someone would actually put a figure down.

  4. 11

    DC says

    “[…] no rational person would ever sell their family.”

    Sadly, this in fact still happens in the world when destitute families sell a daughter. When circumstances are desperate, it becomes easier to rationalize extreme behavior.

    This, I think, is an argument for why there needs to be some level of unemployment benefits. Not an ideal solution, but it helps keep families, and by extension society from falling apart.

    • 12

      Len Penzo says

      Agree about the unemployment benefits, DC. Although, I still think 99 weeks is at least 47 weeks too long. (But that’s a different topic altogether.)

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