November 15, 2012
A Question of Value
Pop quiz time. Let's hope your pencils are sharpened!
Scenario A: Aaron is from a middle-class family and has recently started working at Initech. The group he works for is contending for a major widget contract with Cogswell's Cosmic Cogs. Aaron goes to the Banana Store and purchases a new Banana Jr. tablet computer to help him with his work. With his new-found freedom, he creates a hyper-efficient widget-sorting algorithm. Primed with confidence, Aaron and Initech make their pitch to Cogswell's but lose out on the contract. Financially devastated by the lost contract, Initech lays off Aaron, who is forced to sell his Banana Jr. on the secondary market for $400.
Scenario B: Bob is from a poor household and has recently started working at MomCorp. The group he works for is contending for a major widget contract with Cogswell's Cosmic Cogs. One night, Bob wins a new Banana Jr. tablet computer as a door prize at the MomCorp Family Picnic. He is excited to have the Banana Jr. help him with his work. With his new-found freedom, Bob creates the world's best widget-sorting algorithm. Primed with confidence, Bob and MomCorp make their pitch to Cogswell's and win the contract. Bob gets promoted for his excellent work and decides he wants to buy the new Banana Jr. Mini. He sells the original Banana Jr. on the secondary market for $400.
Exercise #1: Which Banana Jr. was worth more, Aaron's or Bob's?
Scenario Alpha: Alfie lives by himself in a small apartment half a mile from downtown Gotham City. His job at Wayne Enterprises is six blocks away and all major entertainment and necessities are within a mile. He owns a $10,000 car and uses it on a daily basis. One day, a police car crashes into Alfie's car during a car chase with the Joker. The car is totaled. Alfie decides to cash out with the insurance company.
Scenario Beta: Betty lives by herself in a small apartment three miles from the one stoplight in Smallville. Her job at Kent Farms is seven miles away and she has to drive into Capitol City twenty miles away for all major entertainment and necessities. She owns a $10,000 car and uses it on a daily basis. One day, an unexpected building collapse caused by Lex Luthor wrecks Betty's car. The car is totaled. Betty decides to cash out with the insurance company.
Exercise#2: Which car is more valuable, Alfie's or Betty's?
This has concluded your pop quiz for the day. Now please enjoy the unveiling of 2012's American League & National League Most Valuable Player* awards tonight at 6:00 P.M. Eastern.
*Obviously, casting an MVP vote is a bit more difficult than this, but keep your answers to Exercises #1 & #2 in mind for the inevitable discussion that crops up later on tonight when someone justifies their vote for Miguel Cabrera over Mike Trout by pointing to the Tigers' playoff appearance. The definition of "valuable" is rarely debatable when used on a daily basis, but it takes on so many shades and degrees when used in the MVP debate. This makes even less sense when one realizes that the shades and degrees come almost exclusively through circumstances outside of the player's control (such as the quality of the player's teammates or of his opponents). Of course, if sports were as simple as comparing the values of two Banana Jr. tablet computers or two compact cars, they'd be a lot less fun to follow.