Tuesday, October 05, 2004

For What It's Worth

OK, my first post about this was deleted, so this is take two.

This weekend, Angela mentioned something interesting, one of those things that worms its way into the back of your head and sits there, waiting for you to chew on it. Yesterday morning, I finally brought it back and started thinking.

She talked about how her boyfriend, John, isn't getting "paid what he's worth" at his job. Capitalist commodification of self aside, I thought about what someone had told me a few months ago: that a person doing my job should be making more than twice what I'm making, because I can do HTML and public relations. And yet, two years ago, I was making almost half of what I'm making now giving out food to hungry people and helping kids get away from abusive parents.

So what am I really "worth?" If it's what I think I'm worth, then I would be making a million gazillion quadrillion dollars to sit on my island base and write horror stories and occasionally come up with some crazy scheme or another - but that's only what I think I'm worth, and no amount of wishing will make it true.

Then I got to thinking about other factors: the economy, and the "value" of labor in an oversaturated market. And I came up with this analogy.

Let's say back in 1997 I bought a comic book for $500. It was a rare printing, and the only place to get this important story (if you care about continuity). If I had tried to sell that comic book to a non-comic collector, in 1997, for $500, they would have laughed at me. So right there, the comic is only worth $500 to someone willing to pay for it.

Now it's 2004. I try to sell my comic book, and find that the guy at the comic shop will only pay $50 for it. I try another comic shop, and another - the highest anyone will pay is $50. I try eBay - again, $50. So how much is my comic book worth?

Sure, I may think it's worth $500, 'cuz that's what I paid for it once upon a time, but no amount of wishing will make other people pay $500 for it. If all someone is willing to pay is $50, then it's worth $50. A pretty simple lesson in economics.

I know, because Liz just did the job search thing, that someone with my experience in this town would be making right around what I'm making now, and maybe even a little less. So what am I "worth?" Whatever someone is willing to pay for me - and right now, that seems about right. Even a little better than average.

Someday I'll have that island base. Right now, it's OK to be where I am.

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