Value of lifeThe value of life is an economic or moral value assigned to life. It is a key issue in political economy and also globalization.
In the United States, opponents of abortion place a high moral value on individual fetus lives, to the point that they consider this value to overwhelm any right to choose that a woman may have. Some economists consider this debate to be an example of a market failure. Because no market has developed where a woman can trade her right to choose for the unborn child's right to life, the market is unable to assign financial value to either proposition.
In biosafety and insurance, it is necessary to put a precise economic value on a given life. There can be no such thing as a perfectly safe or risk free system - one can always make a system safer by spending more money. However, there are diminishing returns involved. In travel, the economic value of life, for safety purposes, varies between around $1,000,000 for trains, and around $20,000 for automobiles.
The anti-globalization movement objects to the obvious disparity between the value assigned to life in developed nations versus developing nations - most particularly as reflected in World Bank, WTO, IMF and other institutional decisions in which there is little or no public input. They point to such numbers as the IPCC assumption that a developed nation can pay fifteen times more to avert a death due to climate change as a developing one, as evidence of systematic neglect of the value of life in the poorer South, as opposed to the more developed North. Some also fear that more standard global value of life mechanisms could well rob working people in the developed nations of their long-held privileges.
A few also debate as to whether animal life deserves to have a value assigned to it, such as in the field of biodiversity. A moral argument associated with this is the Great Ape genocide debate, which has become especially poignant since the recent advocacy by some scientists to move the Chimpanzee into Genus Homo (previously it was considered a hominid).
Some advocates feel that putting an economic price tag on life is "inhumane", because every life is "priceless". However, with a limited supply of resources or infrastructural capital (e.g. ambulances), or skill at hand, it is impossible to save every life, so some trade off must be made.
Refusal to assign any value to life often leads, ironically, to no value being attached to life. So, treating an endangered human life, or even the value of Earth itself, in economics formally as a commodity is morally justified, in that risks of failure to protect it, thus become costs.
See also: meaning of life