Settle a bet- more likely; enrich a debate.
A friend of mine (a philosophy PhD with a penchant for economics) and I have been arguing for some time on the same topic. He is a libertarian with Austrian-perspective economics, I am a left leaning liberal with Keynesian economics. It should not take a genius to guess at the bone of contention. Every time we meet up: we drink and eat, and perhaps there is a while- an entente cordiale- in which more mundane things are discussed, but inevitably; unfailingly, we will find a way to touch on it- some news story, or some reference to my teaching, and we are off: the remainder of the evening is reserved for argument. All is friendly, of course, nothing personal. But what follows is certainly spirited.
Last week, I think I got him.
Or at least I got close enough to make him sweat- close enough to think I was on to something: close enough to, I think, merit further research. My argument, heavily precised, was this:
The Austrian perspective treats the market as a processor of value information: from producer to consumer and back, there is a flow of information in prices and in demand about the value of things; transferred in such a way that things are produced and distributed in proportion to their value.
But, for some, the 'real value' of most of what they purchase does not reflect the price on the ticket.
The ability to recognise 'real value' strictly increases by education.
I appeal to evidence: the continuing failures of the free market model (and this is the part most heavily precised), as well as to the internal logic of the system, to claim that the buying in crowds of fools, and misguided attempts to second guess them, stop this 'processor of value information' from working correctly. The machine makes mistakes, when its inputs are faulty.
Realistically, markets will never produce even close to 50% private education.
Therefore Austrian perspective economists should demand better public education
My grasp of economics is perhaps not as bad as my friend would often have me believe, as he did not attack my economics. Instead he claimed that there is no such thing as 'real value', that value was value by definition, as both parties enter an exchange voluntarily. He also claimed that education does not have constant value, but this is, by a slightly convoluted route, contingent on his first point.
What I'm after
The reader will note that, hitherto, 'real value' has appeared in this question in inverted commas. This is because the conversation rather petered out after his reply, as I have never been anywhere near ontology- I simply could not come close to justifying my view: that real value represents as much a reality as truth itself- varying in time, place and possibly perspective, but all but demonstrably real.
I have a naive conception of 'real value' as 'noumenon to the mind of the market' and a copypaste of Kant's arguments are as close as I could come to defending my view.
I am looking for a survey on the ontology of 'real value' as I have implicated here. Readability (for a relative novice in ontology), relevance to the argument and available-for-freeness are all good criteria. Comments on the wider argument are welcome, but please be aware that this is the condensed banter of an evening and is, as such, not a full argument. I am also not looking for other, disjoint, criticisms of libertarianism- If you know of one that would convince a libertarian, I urge you to take it to your nearest politician: otherwise it is of no use as far as I am concerned.