Early in the writing of The Value Crisis, I was trying to wrap my head around different behaviours that I was observing in myself and others. It seemed to be that some people used number-based value thinking more than others, and I tried to find a simple way to illustrate this and perhaps even test for whether or not they were "Quantifiers" or not.
I have since abandoned the idea of trying to divide people into "Quantifiers" and "Qualifiers" in preference for the Value Personae theory that I based on the work of Robert Reich. In Supercapitalism, Reich described different mindsets that we operate under: the consumer/investor and the citizen. In Chapter Ten, I consider these as three distinct versions of what I call our value personae, and explore how they operate in an individual and collectively at the societal level.
Still, one scenario (that didn't make it into the book) remained as a useful way to consider these different behaviours. It went something like this:
You’re walking down the street on a sunny day with no one else around, when you glance down at the clean sidewalk and see a shiny dime. Do you pick it up? If your answer would be “Yes”, would you also pick up a nickel or a penny? If you said “No” to the dime, for what coin denomination would you stop and pick it up? If your original find were two nickels, would that change your answer?
I posed this series of questions to a number of people, and two distinct styles of decision-making emerged.
I don't think anyone exhibits pure number-based thinking. Picking up a quarter and picking up twenty-five pennies are never exactly the same thing; other factors come into play. On the other hand, most businesses will accept a twenty-five cent payment in either form. (Not that we have pennies in Canada anymore...) This particular trait of pure number-based values being found in business entities - especially publicly-traded corporations - is thoroughly examined in Chapter 7 of The Value Crisis.
And thus, my stray coin experiment is now relegated to this blog, but it has not been abandoned entirely. I still think it is a useful way to illustrate different styles of decision-making, and it is still a wonderful way to open up the conversation about number-based values.
So, what coins would you pick up? And more importantly, why?