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Scale of Values

December 27, 2010

Human action implies existence of scale of values of acting man. Acting man can choose between various alternatives. When he chooses one alternative, it is a demonstration of the fact that he preferred this alternative to others; he chose this alternative because it had higher value for him. On this subject von Mises writes:

“Acting man chooses between various opportunities offered for choice. He prefers one alternative to others. It is customary to say that acting man has a scale of wants or values in his mind when he arranges his actions. On the basis of such a scale he satisfies what is of higher value, i.e., his more urgent wants, and leaves unsatisfied what is of lower value, i.e., what is a less urgent want. There is no objection to such a presentation of the state of affairs. However, one must not forget that the scale of values or wants manifests itself only in the reality of action. These scales have no independent existence apart from the actual behavior of individuals. The only source from which our knowledge concerning these scales is derived is the observation of a man’s actions. Every action is always in perfect agreement with the scale of values or wants because these scales are nothing but an instrument for the interpretation of a man’s acting.” (Ludwig von Mises, Human Action, Chapter IV, 2. The Scale of Value, p. 94-95)

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