Sunday, October 28, 2012

Shining light on value

Neo-classical bank building,
Bendigo, now home to the
Wine Bank on View
I've a column in the Canberra Times, today, 'Shining light on real values'.

Prompted by recent trips to Bendigo and Canberra, I'm discussing the nature of value. In particular, the varieties of value, and their seeming incommensurability. A sample:
Bendigo is hardly an agrarian paradise, but with a good breeze, there is noticeably less pollution in the air. The light seems … lighter.  
It is this quality of light that painter Arthur Streeton praised in a letter, describing his ''hill of gold'' at Eaglemont in Melbourne's east:
''Yes I sit here in the upper circle surrounded by copper and gold & smile joy under my fly net as all the light, glory & quivering brightness passes slowly & freely before my eyes.''  
Which brings me back to values. What many painters notice, but most of us rarely register, is the distinctive worth of natural light. Light is always valuable, of course, but we take it for granted, particularly when it has been dimmed by glowing tungsten or neon.  
Natural light is what's known as a positive externality in economics: something not factored into the calculations, but which is valuable nonetheless. 

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