Monetary symbolism - i.e., money - is born of the same intellect that produced language and mathematics. It is most closely related to atomistic materialism - that era of physics that attempted to reduce all phenomena to a common set of building blocks, the atom. While the atom has been blown apart and dismissed as anything concrete and substantial in itself, we have largely accustomed ourselves to its social allegory of pricing.

In this mulifarious world of ours, populated already by nearly 5 billion people and rising, we rely on pricing to move goods and services to where they are needed and utilized. It's really marvelous, if you stand back and think about it. And it is based on widely touted theories of supply and demand. You probably already know this, so I'll put it simply. If there are two apples and three people want them, they'll bid up the price until one of the three loses interest. That is, until the price exceeds value. This value depends on factors like personal preference for fruits as well as how much money each person has to spend, that is to say, on income distribution.

Behind the touted theory, there lurk deeper assumptions about price and value. We say each will pay according to what something is worth and that implies value. But it is still a very relative value. I do not know much about wine, for example, but on such rare occassions as I am invited out, I might take an offering of wine with me. In selecting a wine, I make an assumption of worth based upon price - that a higher priced wine is better than a lower priced wine and will pay an extra buck for it. But the higher price may merely reflect that it comes from a region that experienced a drought in a given year, producing fewer and lower qualitiy grapes, resulting in a scarce supply, but which is not at all good.

On the other hand, we may have things which come to us in abundance - like water, oxygen and sunshine - and we wouldn't pay a nickle for them, yet our every breath depends upon them. We think that because we haven't paid a nickle for air in the past, it must not be worth anything - or at least, not worth protecting. Pricing is a kind of information, you see, about our shared values. We take price to indicate what something is worth. This is like a magic show where the magician fools himself. If we haven't paid a nickle, it must not be worth a nickle. Ok, let's try it out. Everybody, hold your breath....

Pricing, if it is to mean anything, must be based on something meaningful. If all of us, within our own individual budgets, determine the price of things, we need to take responsibility for that. Looking at my own tiny budget, I am really a wimp in the marketplace. And yet I do my part. Doing one's part is a different motivation than being strictly concerned with competitive advantage, with one's own self-inerest. Maybe miniscule in its immediate effect; yet it is profoundly, fundamentally, meaningful.