Economic Value and Cost are Subjective

HANDBOOK ON CONTEMPORARY AUSTRIAN ECONOMICS, Peter J. Boettke, ed., Edward Elgar Publishing, 2010

30 Pages Posted: 16 Sep 2010  

Edward Peter Stringham

Trinity College

Date Written: September 13, 2010


Question 1 begins by discussing an area of subjectivism where most economists agree: Is economic value subjective? This area differentiates most modern economists from classical economists and many non-economists. Question 2 probes an area where many but not all economists agree: Are costs subjective? This area differentiates many Austrian and certain neoclassical economists from orthodox neoclassical economists following Alfred Marshall’s tradition. Questions 3, 4, 5, and 6 discuss areas where even fewer still economists agree: Can we survey people’s subjective preferences? Can we measure an individual’s utility? Can we compare utility between individuals? Can we aggregate the utility of many people? For these questions one can find Austrian and neoclassical economists on both sides of the debate. Questions 7, 8, 9, and 10 look at alternative approaches to making welfare comparisons between nations that do not purport to depend on measuring subjective utility, such as looking at per capita income, migration patterns, society-wide cost-benefit analysis with dollars as the unit of measurement, and a demonstrated preference Pareto rule. Where one stands on these issues depends on how far one is willing to extend the logic of economic subjectivism. And where one stands on questions of economic subjectivism has an important influence on how one analyzes the world and what policies one recommends.

Suggested Citation

Stringham, Edward Peter, Economic Value and Cost are Subjective (September 13, 2010). HANDBOOK ON CONTEMPORARY AUSTRIAN ECONOMICS, Peter J. Boettke, ed., Edward Elgar Publishing, 2010. Available at SSRN:

Edward Peter Stringham (Contact Author)

Trinity College ( email )

United States

Paper statistics

Abstract Views