06 April 2009

Stewards must know value when they see it

As fiduciaries, stewards have a duty to take care of their charges. That duty to care-for implies a prior duty to recognize the value in the charge, and to recognize what it is about the charge that embodies that value. That prior duty is the basis for establishing value-measures in a society. By invoking the duty of the fiduciary, the society would be able to arrive at valuations in the context of an abundance economy.

Men have for centuries wrestled with the question of how society should measure value. The free market is today's world's primary mechanism for measuring value. In our world today, the social measure of value is its free-market price. That price mechanism for measuring value, which is just one way to measure value, works well in an economy where scarcity is the rule. Prices serve well to suss out how much value a thing has in a world where there's never enough to go around.

In an abundance economy, prices are poor measures of value. Where decision-makers typically have enough, how much someone is willing to pay to acquire some thing has little typically to do with how much value it has.

What the Bible suggests is that in an abundance economy we measure value by imagining ourselves as stewards who have a fiduciary responsibility to know well the value of what is in our charge, so that we can fulfill our fiduciary responsibility to preserve and enhance that value. Stewardship could be an alternative mechanism for the society's measuring of value. It could supplant the market mechanism in an economy that has matured past its 'early growing pains.'

When the managers of mature corporations take over their direction, for example, they need to serve as stewards who are keenly interested and acutely cognizant of the value that is embodied in their corporations. They must know the locci of value in their corporations not only in terms of what produces the highest share price or the highest sale price but what accounts for the ability of the coporation to continue harvesting the value from the fund of fertility that is embodied in its organization's name, structure and culture.

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