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Demosthenes's avatar

Can something given for free have worth?

Asked by Demosthenes (12728points) September 1st, 2020

Inspired by a recent discussion. :)

Do you appreciate the things you’ve been given without having worked to attain them? Are things not worked for inherently worthless or can they have value?

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28 Answers

Jeruba's avatar

Anything I have received as a gift is by definition something I didn’t work for. Of course I value them.

My son, for instance, had one of his gorgeous still-life photographs enlarged and framed for me as a birthday gift. My other son (years ago) gave me a set of glow-in-the-dark plastic worms and snakes. I value these for different reasons, but I certainly value them.

This is aside from the inherent worth and likewise the possible marketable worth of an item. A pair of diamond earrings has a market value, and so does a 100-year-old Limoges teacup. A speckled feather found in the grass: probably not, but I like it anyway.

hmmmmmm's avatar

Define “free” in this context.

Are we talking about children, who receive food, shelter, k-12 education, enrichment, etc? If so, are we discussing class and income inequality and how kids of wealthy parents get far more “free” stuff than others?

Or are we discussing things like the wealthy who pay for their children’s college (and prep, etc) – a gift worth hundreds of thousands of dollars that affects their economic security for decades?

Or are we discussing the issue of inheritance, where the rich are able to leave something to their children, who have not worked to attain these things?

Or are we talking about the concept of investment, where having money allows investment and the lucky can attain money (and therefore material goods) without working to attain them?

Or is this more philosophical? Is this a question about value and whether an non-purchased good or service can have value in a world of commodification?

Demosthenes's avatar

We’re talking about all those things, @hmmmmmm :)

canidmajor's avatar

Yes, of course.

janbb's avatar

@Demosthenes Wasn’t your college education given to you for free by your parents? Don’t you value it? Or does one only have to work one’s way through college to value it.

zenvelo's avatar

One can argue that only those things freely given are of value:time, patience, love, understanding. As soon as a price is put on such things, they lose all worth.

Demosthenes's avatar

@janbb It was and I do value it very much, along with everything else my parents have given me. I don’t agree that things not worked for are worthless. I do think some things given can be more difficult to appreciate, however.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

Some people don’t appreciate some things untill they lose them.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Recently, due to Covid, there has been so much help here, that three different people gave away govt food baskets to me (veggies, dairy, etc…), as they didn’t want to cook. So I took the items and made pies and things, gave some to them and their children as well as others, with that food so it didn’t go to waste.

The people I know do definately appreciate help they get as it keeps cash in their pockets.

hmmmmmm's avatar

@Demosthenes: “We’re talking about all those things, @hmmmmmm :)”

Oh good. Then we’re also likely talking about luck and timing.

We’re probably talking about people who are born in a country that is not currently getting bombed. The “free” things that come with circumstances such as birth location and time are not things that have the individuals have worked to attain.

We’re also likely talking about being born the correct skin color, which comes with more “free” benefits that have not been attained through work. For those confused with this, slap “during slavery” to make it easy.

Or maybe we’re also talking about the “free” things that come with having been born without disability. This is something that has not been worked to attain, but provides a lifetime of material benefits.

si3tech's avatar

Of course it can.

kritiper's avatar

Yes. Hence the old saying “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”

smudges's avatar

Of course!

Zaku's avatar

Why is this even a question? Of course worth and value are not based on price. I’m almost afraid to know what kind of twisted morality comes up with this as a question.

Demosthenes's avatar

@Zaku Well, it’s not about price, it’s about whether you have worked for or earned something as opposed to having it handed to you. The thing need not have a monetary value. The question was inspired by a discussion in another question where a user (not me) said that “free housing” inevitably gets trashed and destroyed by its residents because things people do not work to attain are worthless and people do not value them.

jca2's avatar

(raises hand) That was me that made the comment that @Demosthenes is referring to.

Here’s the comment, for transparency’s sake, in response to a question about whether the US should provide free housing:

The housing projects that I’ve been to here in NY, people piss in the hallways and piss in the elevators and piss in the stairwells, write graffiti on the walls, write graffiti on the benches outside, throw garbage and dirty diapers out the windows, the list goes on and on. I am all for a hand up but sometimes, people don’t appreciate things that they get for free.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Demosthenes Yeah, that’s not true everywhere or for every housing unit. I lived in some for a few years as a kid and the people were so diverse. From generational poverty to an unfortunate circumstance, to refugee’s/ immigrants.

If you ask me, part of the problem is the lack of a family unit (yeah yeah, no one wants to hear my family values speeches here, I know) but a ton of single parents lived there working all the time, even in income-based situations, to try to rise out of poverty. That leaves many kids unsupervised or supervised by older siblings, which is when they get in a lot of trouble and destroy things.

LadyMarissa's avatar

Unless LOVE is freely given, it is worthless!!!

It has been my experience that children of the wealthy are given so much stuff ALL their lives that they grow to expect it & fail to appreciate what they have been given because they NEVER had to ”want for anything”!!!

I was raised by a father who was shot during WWII & I was raised with a healthy RESPECT for what the freedoms this country has/had is the most precious gift that I could receive & I don’t perceive that to be worthless!!!

smudges's avatar

@jca2 I don’t think that the way people treat their possessions has anything to do with whether they were free or not, or whether they’ve worked for something.

jca2's avatar

@smudges: If you read what I wrote, I didn’t say all people or every instance. I said “sometimes.”

smudges's avatar

@jca2 Your point was that because some people get a hand up/out that they will treat things poorly and not appreciate them. I was simply saying that free or not has nothing to do with it for some people.

Zaku's avatar

@Demosthenes “Well, it’s not about price, it’s about whether you have worked for or earned something as opposed to having it handed to you. The thing need not have a monetary value. The question was inspired by a discussion in another question where a user (not me) said that “free housing” inevitably gets trashed and destroyed by its residents because things people do not work to attain are worthless and people do not value them.”


In that case, I would say that it still seems to me clearly entirely not true that the actual worth of something is based on earning or gifting.

And also in the case of the idea that free housing inevitably gets trashed and destroyed by its residents… that part all by itself is also entirely untrue…

And as for the idea that such behavior is “because things people do not work to attain are worthless and people do not value them.” is also very much not true.

There are endless counter-examples to all such assertions.

Which does not mean, of course, that there are not many cases of people who have not valued things given to them, and/or who have destroyed housing or wasted other gifts. And of course there are many cases of people particularly appreciating the things they have worked for.

But it is definitely not a universal truth. And the cases where people have not valued gifts, and/or destroyed them, are not just about this basic idea. When people destroy valuable things, it tends to be about other causes and reasons.

In that original context, I would say that it is true that the racial and economic issues in this country certainly cannot be solved by only simply providing a few needs to some people. The issues are deeper and more complex and call for intelligent and well-executed solutions.

jca2's avatar

@smudges: I’m glad we agree, then.

seawulf575's avatar

Probably the one thing I have been given free that I completely value is my wife’s love. Beyond that, there have been a few things I have been given for free that I find worth in, whether it is monetary worth or sentimental worth.

JLeslie's avatar

Of course. Someone worked for it or spent time making it.

I never understood people not valuing something they didn’t pay for. I take care of other people’s things better than my own. I value and treasure many things that have been given to me.

As far as living in a rental rather than a place that I own, I still care and value where I live. I think the big difference is, if the place is run down people have less care about maintaining it. If it seems overwhelming to fix it up or that it will barely make a dent in its overall appearance.

longgone's avatar

Do you value your life?

nightwolf5's avatar

Yes usually, depending on who gave and the item. Most likely sentimental value. The free things are the best things.

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