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3rd September 2006 | Draft

Human Values "Stock Market"

Investing in "shares" in a "value market" of fundamental principles

-- / --

Virtuality of value: the challenge of intangibility
Equivalence of value-related intangibles?
Key human value "stocks" or "shares"
"Portfolios" of human values -- and "mutual funds"?
Psychic income?
Insights from terminology: stocks, shares, bonds and securities
From stock exchanges to "value markets" and "value exchanges"?
Value transactions: "buying" and "selling"
Value promotion -- and the role of the media
Value brokers
Learnings from financial market strategies: investment styles and preferences?
Learnings from financial analysis and modelling?
Comprehension of stock exchange operation through metaphor
Benefits vs Losses: dividends from investment in values
Fluctuation in values
Performance indicators in the values market
Assessing the value of shares
Abuse in the value exchange system
Conclusion: ambiguities with regard to human values


There is a strong possibility that human values may tend to be thought about by many in capitalist societies with the same logic and mindset as company stocks and shares. There is therefore a case for exploring those values as though they were "stocks" that could be "traded" --, bought and sold -- on a "value market".

The two kinds of value -- "human" and "economic" -- may be more intimately related than is readily assumed. Economic values may be confused, deliberately or inadvertently, with other values that may be as essential, or more fundamental, to community viability -- as argued by Dee Hock (Birth of the Chaordic Age, 1999; One from Many: VISA and the rise of chaordic organization, 2005).

Part of the challenge lies in the overlap in terminology between "values" as economic values and those considered to be of psychosocial, even spiritual, importance. For example governments issue "bonds", a term fundamental to social and other bonds considered vital to a sense of relationship and community. There is a sense in which the terminology applicable to "intangible" fundamental human principles, such as "equity", has been appropriated to facilitate descriptions of the specific needs of investment and trading in economic values treated as significantly more "tangible".

This overlap is more consciously explored with respect to local exchange trading systems (LETS) and complementary currencies where there is a recognition that economic transactions can underpin community relationships more effectively than monetarized transactions. LETS could be understood more generally as systems for the exchange of community values -- as is the case of such web-based variants as Friendly Favors and GiveGet Nation. The arguments for use of such systems are not however the immediate concern of the exploration here -- although their specific concerns with the poorly understood operations of the monetary system may well point to insights of more generic significance with respect to human values (cf Margrit Kennedy, Why Do We Need Monetary Monetary Innovation? 1995; Richard Douthwaite, The Ecology of Money, 1999; Bernard Lietaer, The Future of Money, 2001; Thomas H Greco, Money: understanding and creating alternatives to legal tender, 2001; Peter Koenig, 30 Lies About Money, 2003).

In part the following exploration is an effort to determine whether there are insights from the process of trading in values in the financial market arena -- notably in the light of the terminology used -- which are of relevance to understanding the dynamics of society in relation to human principles. It is however also possible that the disciplined thinking devoted worldwide, and so intensively, to the financial markets and their operation might offer insights into forms of thinking that would give greater discipline to thinking about human values and principles -- perhaps with more fruitful implications for the challenges of humanity.

The pattern of thinking with regard to financial values is therefore used here as a form of cognitive template offering a means of tentatively ordering understandings and possibilities with regard to human values. However this is NOT an exploration of possibilities of placing monetary value on human values, as studied in other contexts. Nor is the intent to explore the morality of the marketplace as studied by Daniel Finn (1998, 2003, 2006) [more more]

More generally this exploration is an effort to address the collective "split personality" that is seemingly so determinative of the dynamics of society -- between preoccupations, on the one hand, with economic values and, on the other hand, with values extolled as exemplifying the best of humanity. The fact that "trillions of dollars" are exchanged daily through various financial markets -- whose benefit to humanity continues to be debated -- suggests a need to explore ways of understanding how human values are (or might be) "traded" or "exchanged" to the greater benefit of humanity.

In clarifying the intent of this exploration, two further potential misunderstandings need to be addressed:

Virtuality of value: the challenge of intangibility

Concepts such as stocks, shares, companies, property/ownership, and debts are primarily intangibles whose "existence" derives from the social construction of conventional reality. There are various forms of agreement that such phenomena are "real" and this reality is acknowledged in a variety of documents that confer a legal existence to the phenomena through that convention.

Part of the challenge is evident when attempting to view a corporation and its assets. The challenge has been exemplified in endeavouring to explain concepts of "property" to many indigenous peoples -- especially when "ownership" of that property has been acquired from them under treaty. The modern consequences of these difficulties continue to feature in complex legal proceedings on behalf of indigenous peoples in former colonies, notably Canada, New Zealand, Australia, USA (cf Conclusions and Recommendations of the U.N. Experts Seminar on Indigenous Land Rights and Claims, 1996; Charlene Yates, Conceptualising Indigenous Land Rights in the Commonwealth, Commonwealth Policy Studies Unit, 2004) [more]

The intangibility of human values -- including virtues and principles -- is move obvious. In terms of modern understanding of chaos, such values may even be described as phenomena of higher dimensionality (cf Human Values as Strange Attractors: Coevolution of classes of governance principles, 1993).

There is a case for recognizing the commonality between understandings of "interest" in the economic sphere and the more generic role of any form of "interest" as an attractor. The former is understood as problematic by some religions (as noted above) and by studies promoting complementary currency systems (cf Margrit Kennedy, Interest and Inflation Free Money, 1995), whereas other religions may view any form of interest as a problematic symptom of mundane "attachment" from a mystical perspective. But, irrespective of this spiritual reservation, the issue remains of the relation between "values" and the "interest" they variously evoke, attract because of a subtle reward that they offer -- and how any "market" in such values is to be managed.

Curiously, there is a degree of overlap between the domain of economic values and that of human values. This is exemplified in several cases:

The nature of intangibility has even been provocatively highlighted in relation to the "existence" of a "person" by Kenneth Boulding (Ecodynamics; a new theory of societal evolution. Sage, 1978)

Our consciousness of the unity of the self in the middle of a vast complexity of images or material structures is at least a suitable metaphor for the unity of a group, organization, department, discipline, or science. If personification is only a metaphor, let us not despise metaphors -- we might be one ourselves.

Equivalence of value-related intangibles?

In what follows below some possible implications of equivalence are explored between intangibles in the financial world and in the world of human values and principles. An overview is provided by some of the parallels highlighted in the following table.

Comparison of financial securities and human values
Financial securities Human values
Company: asset / liability Value (liability)

Values, principles



  • signatories
  • memberships
  • journal
Stockholders Association


  • memberships
  • voters


  • DJs
Financial analyst  

Share issue

  • Talking it up

Promotional campaign

  • Talking it up
Credit, credibility (Standard and Poors) Credibility
Transaction (buying, selling) Subscribing (lapsing, resigning)
Value fluctuation Value fluctuation (shifting priorities)

Key human value "stocks" or "shares"

Some human values that might be considered obvious key "stocks" include:

As an example, a more limited set of "chief human values" (identified with associated sub-values) is given in a clarifying discussion by Robert Priddy (In What May Human Values Consist?, 1993/2003) as: Truth, Care, Peace, Duty, Justice. A number of efforts have been made to present key values (eg Copthorne Macdonald, Values That Various People Have Associated With Wisdom).

The distinction between such fundamental values and others is helpfully made by C H Cooley (Valuation as a Social Process. The Psychological Bulletin, 9, 12, December 1912).

The objects possessing... values differ greatly from age to age, but the tests which are applied to them are fundamentally much the same, because the organism from which they spring is much the same.... Such values are as various as human nature itself and may be differentiated and classified in a hundred ways. There are some in which particular senses are the conspicuous factors, as auditory and gustatory values. Others spring from the social sentiments, like the values of social self-feeling which underlie conformity, and the values of love, fear, ambition, honor and loyalty. Closely related to these are the more universal religious and moral values, which, however, are usually entangled with institutional values of a more transient and special character. The same may be said of scientific, philosophical and ethical values, and great achievement in any of these fields depends mainly on the creation of values which are such for human nature, and not merely for some transient institutional point of view.

The "key stocks" -- as "global values" -- may be understood as analogous to "blue chip" stocks. That term is used to describe large, well-known companies that offer stable earnings and a consistent dividend record. Blue-chip companies are reputed to be reliable investments. There would be little question that the above values are typically recognized as reliable "investments" -- as extolled in much traditional wisdom as well as in stories for children.

Recent political initiatives by social or religious conservatives in some countries have stressed a particular set of core values termed "family values" which might also be considered as "blue chip" stocks. As a political and social concept, the term is used to describe a set of moral beliefs in society specifically in response to the perception of declining morality. The term is vague in its precise definition because of the overlapping and distinct understandings of those proposing such a set of values.

However, just what "dividend" and "investment" mean in this context needs to be clarified further -- as with "stocks" and "shares".

"Portfolios" of human values -- and "mutual funds"?

A portfolio is collection of investments held by an institution or by a private individual, typically in the form of stocks and shares.

It could be argued that many social groups, especially political parties, hold "portfolios" of human values as "stocks" -- occasionally "trading" in them. In the case of groups, the formality of holding "stocks" in this way is evident in the manner in which they are embodied into the statutes and constitutions of such bodies -- or additionally into the manifestos and declarations to which they subscribe. There it is typically declared what principles the group "holds" to be true or intends to cultivate in some way. Those "truths" tend to be values, namely "stocks" in the sense explored here. This may usefully apply to the values of a nation as embodied in its constitution.

Intergovernmental "value portfolios": Declarations, manifestations, and especially a constitution, may therefore be understood as a kind of "portfolio" of stocks -- a set of values to which nations that are members of an intergovernmental group subscribe. "Portfolios" of values of major international importance are those embodied in universal declarations such as the following:

There are of course numerous other intergovernmental declarations, some of whose principles are embodied into treaties, for example:

  1. United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child -- effectively "managed" by UNICEF
  2. ILO Conventions (of which 8 are identified as fundamental) -- effectively "managed" by the International Labour Organization

Mutual funds: Portfolios of stocks in companies, as managed by a mutual fund, suggest some interesting similarities to the above "management" of human values. In the case of stocks:

Religions as value fund managers: Of particular interest is the role of religions -- as special kinds of value-holding groups -- in relation to any such "portfolios" or "mutual funds". In the search, through inter-faith dialogue, for a global ethic (cf Towards a Global Ethic: An Initial Declaration, 1993), religions have named many values that they claim to share.

Religions are however assiduous in identifying in their scriptures where their sets of values are explicated (Joel Beversluis (Ed.) A Sourcebook for the Earth's Community of Religions, 1993/1995).

Nevertheless each religion could be understood as similar to a mutual fund, managing sets of values, whether or not they are shared by other religions. Indeed there is a sense in which religions manage their particular portfolios "competitively" -- in a manner somewhat similar to managers of mutual funds. As with mutual funds, religions strive to demonstrate to their "investors" better "performance" than may be achieved with their competitors. This is also evident in their attitude towards members of the religion "investing" in the values of another religion, which typically is the subject of strong disapproval, possibly undertaken at some some considerable cost in terms of social penalization (cf "load families" in the case of mutual funds).

In relation to operations of the financial market, such shifts in the pattern of religious values to which individuals (or groups) subscribe is of particular interest to the degree to which such financial transactions are considered:

Of particular historical interest to any parallel between a "market" of financial operations and one of religious values is the implication of the much-cited biblical account of Jesus ejecting the "money changers" from the Temple in Jerusalem (Matthew 21:12) -- because of the exploitation by such money-brokers of pilgrims required to exchange coins bearing a foreign image for Temple coinage in order to purchase animals for sacrifice there [more]. This account has been cited in protesting the "sale of indulgences" (as discussed above). Ironically this exchange of funds for remission of sins (understood as negative values) originated in the same period as (but prior to) the issue of shares by the Dutch East India Company in 1602 -- the first company to do so.

Secular management of value funds: In contrast to value funds "managed" by religions or by intergovernmental bodies, there are numerous sets of values managed by other bodies. In direct competition with the religious management of values, for example, are the initiatives of humanistic bodies, such as the International Humanist and Ethical Union, which have produced the Fundamental Values of Humanism [more].

An interesting initiative was taken on the occasion of the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992 to assemble a set of NGO Alternative Treaties covering values relating to education, communication, cooperation, economics, consumption, poverty, food, subsistence, climate, energy, waste, land, natural resources, marine issues, biodiversity and biotechnology, as well as cross-sectoral issues.

More generally it might be understood that many of the 30,000 or more international nongovernmental organizations, or their regional counterparts, effectively act as managers for "mutual funds" of values corresponding to their particular field of interest (cf Yearbook of International Organizations). As "mutual funds" these may be considered as competing on value "performance" with those of intergovernmental bodies and religions.

The regular meetings of many of these bodies, such as "annual general meetings", could then also be understood as analogous to meetings of shareholders in a company -- at which the value performance of the managers of the particular mutual fund is assessed (cf the 8,000 future international meetings held annually as identified in the International Congress Calendar).

Of particular interest is the extent to which academic and other disciplines, as represented through their professional bodies, may be understood as managing -- effectively as "guardians" -- a "fund of values" and principles understood to be associated with that discipline. An important distinction is however to be made between:

Ethical funds: Recent years have seen the emergence in relation to the financial market of "ethical investment" or "socially responsible investing" (SRI), namely investing by both financial and social criteria. This should not however be confused with "value investing", a term applied to a technique of financial investing in shares (articulated by Warren Buffet) that appear underpriced by some forms of fundamental analysis (cf Geoff Gannon, What Is Value Investing? Investnewz, May 2006). There are many bodies with a focus on ethical investment. Terms such as "social fund" and "social investing" have also emerged [more].

A global ethical dimension to business has been promoted through the United Nations Global Compact as an initiative to encourage businesses worldwide, notably multinational corporations, to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies, and to report on them in the light of ten principles. Again this initiative could be understood as a "mutual fund" seeking to manage value performance in relation to a portfolio of principles.

It should however be stressed that the concern in what follows is not with investments on the financial stock market that are evaluated according to ethical criteria but rather with the extent to which human (ethical) values may be understood as constituting a form of "stock market" in their own right -- independent of any relation to financial values.

Psychic income?

One useful conventional lead is offered by understandings from the business world of "psychic income" -- the subjective value of nonmonetary satisfaction gained from an activity, possibly an "implicit revenue" associated with an economic transaction. This is income in a non-monetary form, gratifying psychological and emotional needs. In the business world, power, prestige, recognition, and fame are all considered to be forms of psychic income. From a marketing perspective, it relates to the intangible benefits above and beyond the utilitarian value derived from a conventional purchase -- including the improvement in a consumer's self image as a result of purchasing certain highly desirable products.

Psychic income" refers to what motivates people other than money, such as respect, recognition, challenge, love of the work itself, opportunity for autonomy, location in a particular community, name of the prestigious institution for a resume, technologies that make work less drudgery, flexible hours, etc. therefore, the full income is the combination of wages and psychic income of the working conditions.

Colin F. Camerer and Ulrike Malmendier (Behavioral Organizational Economics, 2004) analyze how behavioral economics can be applied to organizations, and how it can be enriched by thinking about the economic questions associated with economic organization. For the authors, behavioral economics modifies the standard economic model to account for psychophysical properties of preference and judgment, which create limits on rational calculation, willpower and greed. Their modified economics theory aims at providing parsimonious and psychologically sound explanations for empirical findings that the standard model has a tough time explaining. They stress, for example, that "psychic income matters", and may be tied to psychological factors like perceived appreciation:

The basic risk-incentive model divides the worker's world into efforts they dislike, and rewards they like. It is convenient to talk about wages as rewards because they are easily measured, and don't satiate. But people are motivated by many other types of non-pecuniary 'psychic income' as well.... Psychologists' synonym for psychic income is 'intrinsic motivation' -- the satisfaction a worker gets from work for its own sake. An interesting phenomenon documented in psychology is the possibility that extrinsic incentives like money can 'crowd out' or extinguish intrinsic motivation.

Christopher J Coyne and Peter T Leeson (How do Rulers Choose? Dual domains of discretion in political decision making) offer an extensive discussion, with evidence, of the role of psychic income in political decision-making (points also echoed in another paper by Benjamin Powell and Christopher J Coyne, Do Pessimistic Assumptions About Human Behavior Justify Government? Global Prosperity Initiative, Working Paper 19). They argue:

The nature of psychic income is such that the outside observer is unable to assign, a priori, specific characteristics that constitute psychic income for the ruler. The psychic component of income is solely in the mind of the actor and hence cannot be measured. Some rulers may place value on being altruistic and truly attempt to serve the interests of their constituents... Others may value their reputation and legacy and act in manner to promote and accomplish these goals. It is most likely due the difficulty in quantifying psychic income that the notion has largely been excluded from analyses of the actions of rulers. Despite difficulties in quantification, we see a plethora of examples of actions taken by rulers that cannot be explained by the standard rent-seeking models.

Milan Zafirovski (Human Rational Behavior and Economic Rationality, Electronic Journal of Sociology, 2003) argues that the rational behavior of human agents is far from being invariably utility- and profit-optimizing, and thus cannot be automatically reduced to economic rationality. His main argument is that behavior can be rational not only on economic grounds but also on non-economic ones. Hence human behavior can be non-rational in economic and yet rational in extra-economic terms, i.e. economically irrational and non-economically rational. He points out:

One can argue... that while measuring psychic-income concepts like happiness is not as clear as the measurement of purely economic utility, they also can be measured. Arguably, though happiness or psychic income is relative and cannot be as precisely quantified as money income, it might be to a degree and in the same way concepts like social prestige can be numerically measured. Researchers in sociology and social psychology have been measuring prestige for some time thus making this concept at least an ordinal-level variable, though it is a subjective measure based on group judgments.... For psychic income simply does not add up to money income -- and often vice versa -- and to that extent to utility in any sensible sense.... As egoist's utility or money income seems of a qualitative different kind to that of the altruist or psychic income, it is highly questionable to subsume under the same category, i.e., utility optimization, even satisficing, what are essentially different types of behavior, such as egoism and altruism, status and wealth, political power and profit, and the like. In addition, these types of income are quantitatively incomparable and incommensurable...

Zafirovski is however careful in pointing out the fallacy of treating psychic income (especially in the light of its acknowledged importance in behaviour) merely as an extension of economic thinking:

...for psychological, ideal and other cultural phenomena are simply not what economists term income, profit, capital, and the like. In this sense, the term psychic income appears as an oxymoron reflecting the above fallacy, or at best an easy analogy and mere metaphor; this mutatis mutandis applies to similar pseudo-economic terms, including political profit, income, capital, exchange, or markets, etc.

Insights from terminology: stocks, shares, bonds and securities

In economic practice, stocks, shares and bonds are formalizations of notions of mutual confidence in the social construction of reality. With respect to human values, they are as fundamental as the process of "sharing" and the resultant pattern of "shares" -- recognized even by small children faced with the challenge of subdivision of resources (whether equitably or with "preferential" allocation of resources to older siblings or more respected "gang" members).

In this context, the analogue to the "stocks" typical of the economic market (especially the commodities market) is that of "setting stock by", namely by a valued standard of reference. With respect to "commodities", these might be understood in the sense of the set of things which are commodious or appropriate -- an old sense of "commodities". Again "bonds" outside the economic market reflect an understanding of a strong relationship, typical of kinship, team and tribal bonds -- and of elective affinities. A similar point could clearly be made with respect to "securities" (physical, affective, or otherwise) .

What is it then possible to learn about "investing" in human values, and from the process of sharing, given the understandings and distinctions made with regard to "financial instruments" and their distribution?

How do people "share" an investment in a value? Comments with respect to human values are given in italics.

From stock exchanges to "value markets" and "value exchanges"?

(As above, the possible equivalent with respect to human values is indicated in italics)

The so-called capital market is the market for securities (thus also known as the securities market), where companies and government can raise long-term funds. The stock market and the bond market are parts of the capital market. A distinction is made within the capital market between the primary market where new issues are distributed to investors, and the secondary market, where existing securities are traded. Note that an Alternative Investments Market (AIM) has been created as a sub-market of the London Stock Exchange, to allow smaller companies to float shares with a more flexible regulatory system.

In the case of human values, the notion of "capital" is perhaps best understood through terms such as "moral capital", "ethical capital", "spiritual capital", "emotional capital", or "intellectual capital". Fundamentally, as in the financial case, it is a question of the credibility on which confidence is built to enable the establishment of sustainable relationships (for whatever period viable transactions are required). The challenge of "raising capital" is thus one of raising confidence through various forms of presentation and promotion that provide a sense of security. The process of "talking it up" is as meaningful in the financial markets as it is with respect to the promotion of other forms of credibility -- for example in the motivation of soldiers going into battle. The distinction in the values case between stocks and bonds has been made earlier. But clearly a distinction can also be made between a "primary market" through which new values are offered and a "secondary market" through which existing values are appreciated or depreciated.

The capital market can be contrasted with other financial markets through which various forms of economic value are exchanged::

Stock exchanges (see checklist) tend to have the following characteristics:

In the human values case, it would appear that there is a strong argument for exploring how the many nonprofit organizations and their conferences effectively function as "value exchanges" -- whether at the local, national, regional or international level, and whether they are (inter)governmental or nongovernmental. As with stock markets, such bodies are the contexts in which:

Assemblies of religious bodies may also be understood in this light, and especially when convened for inter-faith dialogue. In this respect there is considerable irony to the fact that the centennial of the Parliament of the World's Religions (Chicago, 1993), with its core Assembly of Religious and Spiritual Leaders, was held in the former Chicago Stock Exchange (cf Learnings for the Future of Inter-Faith Dialogue: Questions arising from the Parliament of the World's Religions, 1993)

Concern has frequently been expressed by the principal religions that individuals are increasingly faced with what amounts to a "religious supermarket" amongst which people are effectively encouraged to feel free to choose -- selecting aspects of one religion and matching them with features of another. What is selected in this way might however be considered to include "values" -- as respectively promoted by each religion. Further exploration is required to determine whether this "supermarket" could be better understood as the religious segment of a "values market" from which individuals build up a "portfolio" of values according to their investment strategy and preferences. This framing could offer a way of looking at the traditional long-term religious strategies of acquiring "merit" in anticipation of a desired "afterlife".

It is appropriate to note that the expression "psychological stock exchange" has been used by Jean Baudrillard (The Melodrama of Difference, 2006) as a feature of modernity.

Value transactions: "buying" and "selling"

The question is whether the nature of trading transactions in a stock market can offer any insights into the kinds of "trading" transactions that are (or might be) associated with analogues to a stock market, namely plenary conference sessions (or their electronic variants). The main transactions are of course buying and selling,primarily undertaken by brokers, and supported by a flow of communications in which the media play an important role.

Value promotion -- and the role of the media

In the economic case, any purchase or sale is heavily influenced by the promotion through the media of the stocks, bonds, or other financial securities. This promotion is undertaken by the company seeking to raise capital, to justify the confidence of investors, or to promise future performance. Extensive commentary in the media may be made by financial analysts influencing some to buy and others to sell. Rumour-mongering may perform a significant role in interpreting available information. The securities may be "talked up" by interested parties.

Promotion is especially important when issuing a new stock. Private companies may seek public participation, becoming a public company, by floatation of their shares on a stock exchange primarily in order to raise funds to grow their business. A secondary objective is to achieve extra exposure and credibility with existing and potential investors. Both objectives may be associated with plans for acquisition of other companies through use of the shares. Floatation may also be used as a means of extending participation to directors and staff..

In the values case, the media also perform a significant role in carrying and interpreting information from press releases provided by the group promoting the value. Examples are evident in the case of values such as peace, justice, health, and the like. Many organizations conduct their own media campaigns in support of positive values and against negative values. Such organizations may range from (inter)governmental agencies to (international) nongovernmental bodies of every kind.

Values may be promoted widely or to relatively specialized or closed groups. Promotion may be associated with efforts to seek wider adherence to the values through converting an essentially private set of values into a set to which the public is invited to adhere. This exposure and increased credibility may be envisaged as a strategy to subsume other sets of values held by other groups.

Value brokers: buying and selling

In the financial case, a broker is an agent, or middle man, who facilitates the buying and selling of securities on behalf of investors on the stock exchange. The broker may be a company and is recompensed through a commission on each transaction. Ironically, important in the selection of a broker may be non-financial value criteria, notably "honesty", reinforced by industry standards for "ethical" behaviour (often formulated by individual stock exchanges).

A variety of individuals and groups can usefully be considered as acting as value brokers:

Value brokers, aided and abetted by the promotional activities of the groups concerned, help to define what values "are in" and which ones "are out" or "outdated".

Learnings from financial market strategies: investment styles and preferences?

As indicated in the following table, investment strategies in financial securities distinguish between short-, medium- and long-term periods over which risk will be accepted in order to derive benefit. With respect to risk, a distinction is made between low, medium and high risk. In addition to such conventional distinctions, a distinction is now increasingly made by some between "ethical" and "unethical" investments, notably in relation to corporate social responsibility and social investment. With human values, there is a case for distinguishing between adherence to a value for the short-, medium-, or long-term. Such adherence may indeed be understood as low, medium or high risk. As in the financial case, short-term, high-risk investment in a value may be associated with a high degree of opportunism to enable a "quick killing" -- which in the values case could be held to be cynical adoption of values purely as a matter of (selfish) convenience.

Investment strategies and preferences
  Short-term Medium-term Long-term
  Neg. Pos. Neg. Pos. Neg. Pos.
High-risk . . . . . .
Medium-risk . . . . . .
Low-risk . . . . . .

The distinction between "ethical" or "unethical" investment may be fruitfully generalized in terms of "positive" ("constructive") or "negative" ("destructive") values -- complexifying the table (as shown above). This extension makes it possible to encompass situations where people or groups invest in "negative" values rather than in "positive" values. Obvious examples include: the glorification of "war" in preference to "peace"; "wealth" in preference to "poverty", "intolerance" in preference to "tolerance"; "selfishness" in preference to "altruism"; "materialism" in preference to "spirituality".

Such examples point to the ambiguity of any positive-negative connotations. This issue has been extensively explored elsewhere with respect to a very comprehensive range of values in the Human Values Project (as part of the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential) -- 4148 "constructive" [list of key values] and 7246 "destructive" values [list of key values]. These were in turn clustered in terms of 220 value polarities [checklist] specifically in order to respond to ambiguity in value-charged word connotations.

The resultant value database has been used experimentally to associate thousands of international organizations with both the "positive" values to which they claim to aspire (in their constitutions) and with the "negative" values that may be their operational preoccupations in alleviating problems that inhibit the dominance of the "positive" value. This highlights the fact that organizations may be more focused on alleviating "problems" than in embodying or celebrating "positive" values. It is in this sense that value investment may be in problem alleviation rather than in what might be more conventionally recognized as "positive" values. It was in fact concluded that no such problem (as a "negative" value) could be meaningfully recognized without recognizing that it effectively concealed an implicit "positive" value. Just as the financial market may be understood as split into ethical and unethical investment opportunities, so the values market might be understood as split into "positive" and "negative" investment opportunities.

In the case of religious values, there is of course a case for recognizing their polarization into portfolios of "sins" and "virtues" -- with the ultimate value (or value portfolio) of "heaven" or, alternatively, "hell".

The distinct strategies of mutual fund managers offer useful insights:

In the values case a similar distinction could be made in the case of value brokers offering advice to value investors:

Comprehension of stock exchange operation through metaphor

A number of studies and comentaries have focused on the metaphors through which understanding of stock trading has been been articulated. The studies include:

Such studies offer insights into how a values stock exchange might be understood to operate -- and how it might already be experienced, whether by individual or institutional "investors" in human values. They point to the possibility of providing greater comprehension of the "feel" and context of the exchange trading process.

Learnings from financial analysis and modelling

There is a very considerable interest, on the part of those extensively involved in investment in financial securities, in the insights offered by financial modelling (cf Simon Beninnga, Financial Modeling, 2000; Sergio M. Focardi and Frank J. Fabozzi, The Mathematics of Financial Modeling and Investment Management, 2004). The central aim of such modelling is valuation under uncertainty, namely how to estimate the value of a security when its future trajectory, or the trajectory of the other securities or economic variables it depends on, is unknown. They make extensive use of mathematics. Of particular interest is the management of portfolios according to investment preferences for risk and return (cf Björn Palmgren, The Need for Financial Models, 1999). There are many such models. Some of these are highly confidential and proprietary, notably those used in automated trading (or alogarithmic trading) on the stock exchange. Algorithmic trading is the use of very complex computer programs to trade financial instruments (e.g., stocks, bonds, etc.) in electronic markets.

Other analytical approaches include:

In distinguishing the basis for the two forms of analysis in the stock market, technical and fundamental, C. J. Lofting (Market Games: the "what" and the "where" in the stock market, 1999) focuses on a dichotomy that is equally relevant in the case of human values:

From this brief analysis we can see the fundamental neurological processes, manipulation of the what/where dichotomy, at work in one of the most dynamic and at times abstract disciplines used in society and across all cultures within the species, the discipline concerned with financial markets.

What is of interest is that behind all of the words used in these various disciplines there is an invarient pattern of meaning used by ALL disciplines that use dichotomies as fundamentals. It is this template that acts to encode all words with a sense of meaning, something we 'feel', and as such even enables us to make analogies across disciplines since it is the invarient patterns of emotion that resonate with meaning rather than any words.

Furthermore, since the market forces emphasise the use of profit/loss, long/short, put/call, bear/bull dichotomies etc etc so patterns we see in the market are in fact patterns found in the template; For example, wave patterns observed in market processes [C. J. Lofting, Patterns in Markets : the imposition of thinking patterns and the establishment of 'meaning' in trading systems, 1998] can be traced back to (a) recursive dichotomisations combined with (b) indeterminant states and (c) different degrees of feedback considerations. Thus all possible expressions are 'known' and we need to find the current 'flavour of the month'.

In the values case, the main area in which value analyses are done is in relation to value-related opinion surveys, notably with respect to customer values (for marketing purposes) or environmental values -- typically in order to place an economic value on human values (Rajaram Krishnan, Jonathan M. Harris, Neva R. Goodwin (Eds), Survey of Ecological Economics, 1995). This is not the concern of this exploration. The possibility of the kinds of complex modelling and analyses performed in the economic case is not apparently considered in the development of policy options or in the management of value portfolios. Any such portfolio management tends to be framed as an art, unassisted by mathematical modelling -- as in reflection on lifestyle design (cf Mary Catherine Bateson, Composing a Life, 1990; Organization and Lifestyle Design: characteristics of a nonverbal structural language, 1978).

Value surveys typical endeavour to identity with what values people identity (World Values Survey, European Values Study, [more]. These may endeavour to focus on the manner in which such values relate to social change in terms of the "blue chip" values of "democracy", "freedom" etc (cf Ronald Inglehart and Christian Welzel, Modernization, Cultural Change and Democracy: The Human Development Sequence, 2005; Mansoor Moadell, Religion, Democracy and Gender: Findings from Value Surveys in Islamic Countries, 2003). Analyses tend to focus on how the adherence to (specific) values has changed between successive surveys, possibly of annual or greater periodicity (cf World Database of Happiness, Average happiness in 90 nations 1990-2000, 2004; Edwin J. Feulner and Doug Wilson, Getting America Right: The True Conservative Values Our Nation Needs Today, 2006). The Global Values Monitor (developed by the Global Values Network) is, for example, an instrument to survey and measure the "values mix" present in either an organisation, a region or a country.

Of particular interest is the value-survey analysis that has identified a group of people who have invested in a particular portfolio of values. As a result of this work, the group has been recognized as a "sub-culture", labelled the "cultural creatives" (Paul H. Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson, The Cultural Creatives: how 50 million people are changing the world, 2000). Whilst that sub-culture is acknowledged to have low self-recognition, it might be asked whether sub-cultures within that group had a higher sense of identity.

Such analyses are primarily concerned with identifying the sets of values with which people identity. Any similarity to the economic preoccupation with "portfolio management" is limited to political agendas encouraging people to shift to a different value portfolio ("in their best interests" as defined by the promoter of the values in the promoted portfolio). This may indeed be expressed in terms of social change, paradigm change, patterns of consumption, or the promotion of democracy.

Two forms of analysis mentioned in connection with stock market values have also been explored in relation to non-=economic values:

Benefits vs Losses: dividends from investment in values

The benefits from investment are typically associated with the following notions:

Fluctuation in values

The price of a stock in the market fluctuates due to the law of supply and demand like all commodities. However, there are many factors on basis of which the demand for a particular stock may increase or decrease. These factors are studied using methods of analysis to predict such changes in the stock price. In the human values case, the appreciation or depreciation of values is typically recognized in opinion surveys and the subject of media comment and research. A useful example is the increasing concern with environmental and health values in comparison with earlier periods.

Significant situations include:

Performance indicators in the values market

Share indices: These are used to track the price and value development of a group of company shares. The shares included in the index are given a specific weighting according to the criteria of the particular index. A distinction is made between:

Indexes may be either price-weighted or market value-weighted (cf List of stock market indices):

Bond indices: A number of bond indices exist for the purposes of managing portfolios and measuring performance, similar to the S&P 500 or Russell Indices for stocks. The most common American benchmarks are the Lehman Aggregate, Citigroup BIG and Merrill Lynch Domestic Master. Most indices are parts of families of broader indices that can be used to measure global bond portfolios, or may be further subdivided by maturity and/or sector for managing specialized portfolios. The Treasury Bond index (TYX) is based on 10 times the yield-to-maturity on the most recently auctioned 30-year Treasury bond.

In the case of human values, the main approach to value performance is through the tools identified earlier, notably value-related surveys of different types:

In proposing a Human Value Index (HVI), Peter Block (Hard Measures for Human Values. News for a Change, April 2000) makes the point:

We have now made the stock market our primary measure of well-being.... So why do I know more about the well-being of these market indexes than I do about most of my friends? The stock market has become much more important than an index of economic value, it has become a thermometer of our morale and the justification of a culture. As the stock market has become essential to my sense of well-being, the importance of relationships and the value of the person and their social and emotional well-being has been in decline.

A significant reframing of the challenge of human value has been made from a business perspective by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne (Blue Ocean Strategy: how to create uncontested market space and make the competition irrelevant, 2005) who notably focus on the art of drawing value innovation charts, namely trying to transform truly qualitative indicators into comparative form. They have found that the most profitable companies -- over a sustaibale period -- seem to "value" the intangibles, not technology, but relations: with clients, staff etc. Based on a study of 150 strategic moves spanning more than a hundred years and thirty industries, Kim and Mauborgne argue that tomorrow's leading companies will succeed not by battling competitors, but by creating 'blue oceans' of uncontested market space ripe for growth . Such strategic moves -- termed 'value innovation' -- create powerful leaps in value for both the firm and its buyers, rendering rivals obsolete and unleashing new demand. It would be interesting to determine whether a "blue ocean" approach could be successfully applied in ways that would reframe the significance of "competitors" and the insecurity associated with any need to render them "irrelevant".

Of relevance to any such reframing is recognition of the extent to which the largest corporations in the "East" (the Korean chaebol, the Japanese keiretzu in Japan, and similar Chinese groups) decide with their "hearts" (see related arguments on metaphor by Susantha Goonatilake, Toward a Global Science: Mining Civilizational Knowledge, 1999). By this is meant that their financing of future start-ups has little to do with "economic values" as understood in the "West" (cf P K Ip, The Weizhi Group of Xian: a Chinese virtuous corporation, Journal of Business Ethics, 35(1), 2002, pp. 15 - 26).

The above points were highlighted by Ernst Max Nielsen (in a personal communication) following his experience as chief of bureau of the Market and Democracy office in the transition economy of Leningrad. He recognized that "business people" transact in the absence of "monetary" value systems through fundamental reliance on trust -- of which money may become a token. This value is also recognized in the "western" "old boys clubs" like Rotary -- possibly adapted by the knights of yore with their emphasis on "valour".

Jeremy Rifkin (The Third Sector -- and the rebirth of civil society, 1999) argues that modern business practice relies on the practice of value relationships -- notably associated with trust -- built over generations by the third sector (civil society). Also the corollary: to the degree that such trust relationships are dismantled, then modern business collapses:

The first thing to understand about the Third Sector -- the cultural sphere -- is that it is the primordial sector. Throughout history, human beings have always established social communities first. They develop rules of social exchange, embed their members in complex reciprocal relationships, and build up social trust. Only when these relationships, and the trust that is built from them, are firm can communities enter into commercial trade and set up markets for exchange. That's because markets, by there very nature, deplete trust.

Assessing the value of shares

There are various ways in which the value of financial securities can be assessed, notably to determine those which are undervalued or overvalued. In the case of human values, such assessment is based primarily on opinion surveys through which non-financial values are rated (as with the Consensus Rating described below). A distinction should however be made between the assessment of human values on their own terms and efforts to assess the financial performance of the nonprofit bodies that typically promote such values, as discussed by Elizabeth K. Keating and Peter Frumkin (How to Assess Nonprofit Financial Performance, 2001) or as suggested for international associations (Management and Assessment of Financial Resources of international nonprofit associations, 1971):

In the case of human values, there are few, if any, indicators of the type mentioned above for economic values -- which may be made available with high periodicity (even hourly). Various approaches to assessment of value performance are howver worth considering:

Abuse in the value exchange system

Financial regulators, such as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Services Authority in the UK, oversee the markets, to ensure that investors are protected against misselling of various kinds. Individual exchanges may deploy a vast array of sophisticated automated systems to review each trade and price quotation on an on-line, real-time basis. Off-line computer-based analyses may be conducted to evaluate trading patterns on a monthly, weekly and daily basis -- notably unusual price or volume variations in a stock. Abuses include:

There are as yet no analogous controls with respect to abuses in the human values market, notably those relating to misrepresentation. The need for these is increasingly obvious -- in the light of the degree of "spin" with which values are now presented to public opinion.

Conclusion: ambiguities with regard to human values

The intangible nature of values has been stressed. In effect the discussion is an exploration of value "trading" in a generic sense -- of which trading in economic market values is the most obvious and best articulated form.

Although any conflation of the two forms of value may be disputed, there is an interesting way of reviewing and relating the two extremes:

In the discussion above various suggestions were made as to how a value is held or traded. At this early stage -- prior to further clarification -- an organization may already be ambiguously understood as:

Many of these roles are already variously performed by international organizations identified in the Yearbook of International Organizations -- whether "official" intergovernmental organizations or nongovernmental bodies. The value exchange role is in particular performed within the international (plenary) meetings of such bodies -- as identified in the International Congress Calendar. Of particular interest is the manner in which these many distinct "stock exchanges" for non-monetary human values are interlinked and variously "quote" and prioritize (namely "trade") the same values (or value sets) -- perhaps at a regional level. Where such contexts bring together their equivalents at the regional or national level, or those which have a more specific sectoral focus, a distinction may be seen between broader and more specialized exchanges analogous to that in the economic case. The broader contexts may be understood as seeking to bring order to a wider segment of the values market.

Of particular interest is that the intimate relationship of organizational forms with a value that they purport to represent in some way result in practice in either the organization or the value losing its credibility in relation to that which it previously held. Of course it is also possible that the appreciation of the value and/or the organization may increase in a manner subsequently held to be excessive or inappropriate.

The fact that, for a given value or set of values, many different bodies may be considered as performing such roles stresses further the non-exclusive quality of intangible values. Whilst some bodies may strive, or claim, to "corner the market" with respect to one or more such values, other bodies may emerge that claim or act otherwise. Classically this situation has been highlighted with respect to "peace" as a value. The inability of any of the many bodies focused exclusively on "peace" to represent that value unambiguously, and without contestation by others making some such claim, is an indication of how the value transcends any of the above roles to "capture" it within the values market. In contrast with the exclusive nature of possession or ownership of property, as represented by stock in the financial market, human values clearly have a non-exclusive dimension -- despite any efforts to "corner the market".

This framework also suggests the merit of reflecting on the nature of national parliaments as contexts in which human values are effectively traded. The use there of the term "horse-trading" points to an existing recognition of this process -- as a dematerialization of the trading in stock by farmers. The dynamics of regional parliaments, such as the European Parliament, are then of particular interest as regional value exchanges -- especially with respect to the efficiency, speed and transparency with which they perform this function in relation to the value "shareholders" in whose values they are effectively trading.

Recently there has been a focus on selected (but typically unidentified) core "blue chip" values at the global level. This has notably been in service of particular (and potentially questionable) political and religious agendas (cf Tony Blair, Global Alliance for Global Values, Speech on Foreign Policy to the Parliament of Australia, 27 March 2006; Honor Mahony, Merkel favours God reference in EU constitution, EU Observer, 26 May 2006). It is especially unfortunate that such intiatives should be promoted by world leaders so recently associated with public deception -- Blair in the case of WMD, Merkel as inheritor of the mantle of presidency of the Christian Democratic Union (completely discredited by Helmut Kohl's party financing scandal), or George Bush (Lie by Lie: Chronicle of a War Foretold: August 1990 to March 2003, MotherJones, September/October 2006).

Any value initiatives are particularly problematic when deliberate efforts are to be made to impose "Christian values" on a continent under the auspices of a particular religion -- as indicated by Angela Merkel's commitment, as future president of the EU, following her encounter with the Pope (cf Nicholas Watt, Merkel backs more Christian EU constitution, The Guardian, 29 August 2006). The commitment on behalf of Germany is particularly unfortunate given its highly controversial association with the Vatican on the occasion of a previous attempt to impose a set of values on Europe (cf Bill Stone, The Vatican and World War II, 1999). Such initiatives should be explored in the light of the necessary clarification of roles suggested here. Such clarification is especially important to the extent that these political agendas represent a reframing of the discredited strategic initiative of the Coalition of the Willing and its leadership (cf Blair: Western values must triumph over radical Islam. Islam Review, 1 August 2006) -- perhaps well analyzed by Scott Peck (People of the Lie, 1983).

Also of interest is the possibility for any individual to reframe the sense of personal identity in terms of the value stock market metaphor. An individual is thus constantly juggling with a set of value priorities -- a personal (existential) portfolio requiring "management" and calling for analysis of "performance". It is perhaps through enhancing the skills required for such management, through the many insights from the stock market, that new approaches to well-being can be realized.


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