Money is a poor measure of value

A recent report on a report on ebook-lending by libraries decided to headline the fact that the lending didn’t increase ebook sales.

Of course, when you dig into the thing you find that it isn’t that simple, that it only didn’t increase sales via a single specific mechanism, and that there is no real way here of connecting the dots to see if A causes a change in B (whatever A and B are).

But even when it’s bad, news reporting does one thing well: their assumptions tell us what society values. In this day and age of analytics and optimisations, what they decide to headline tends to be what most of us think is important.

And it’s clear that what our society values above all else is money.

Libraries aren’t measured by how they improve our communities, educate our children, or democratise access to information, but by how much they increase sales for publishers.

Schools aren’t measured by how good of a citizen the average graduate is, how informed they are when it comes to voting, or their ability to manoeuvre their way around the emotional rocks of life. They’re measured by the income of their graduates—more specifically, by how much more they earn than the graduates of other schools. Our society’s measure of value distorts the education system until the only thing it provides is value for corporations.

And when the only real rationale is a moral one—such as with a full-service, no compromises, universal healthcare, or universal basic income—our society demonstrates that it really does value money more than people.