“Estimating the price” of a human life sounds insensitive, although necessary in certain circumstances such as agreeing on a personal injury settlement, a decision in a murder case, or when sex trafficking organizations raise awareness for their cause. Humans are unique beings with unique perceptions and beliefs. We value individual humans within our life different amounts. I remember when I was a child, I would play, would you rather. In reality, we were evaluating the opportunity cost of giving up one thing or another. What is the opportunity cost of human life? How do we calculate the economic value of life? 

The right to life is one of the universal fundamental human rights. There are international, regional, and national legal protections for human life. (Belo) One of the most significant difficulties is different countries’ respect and ensure human rights in various manners. The US system compensates for death concerning the individual’s financial circumstances, creating extreme economic estimates of human life costs.

Perspectives of how we value human life varies as moral beliefs of humans vary. Adam Smith says moral sentiments come from the bottom up rather than handed down. (Gulker) For example, my family’s life has more value to me than to a stranger, so what we would value our life at is vastly different from how an outsider would appreciate our life. The Human-Life approach that health insurance companies use calculates the amount a family would need if they were to incur the insured family member’s loss. Some of the factors considered include the insured individual’s age, gender, planned retirement age, occupation, annual wage, employment benefits, and the personal and financial information of the spouse and dependent children. (Kagan) We have seen different views clash and divide us throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Anti-maskers state the mask doesn’t protect them from the transmission of the virus, so they shouldn’t be worn, while pro-maskers argue it reduces the risk of us spreading it, so masks are necessary. This example demonstrates how some individuals will not inconvenience themselves to preserve others. When evaluating the economic value of life, do personal beliefs intervene? Max Gulker believes basing care or monetary value of a person’s life off of social class or status is counter-productive to our growth as a society.

The dollar value of human life is modified with the changing political tides. The president’s political affiliation wasn’t as much of a factor in the cost of human life as much as the individual perspective. Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush both lowered the value while Al Gore and Barack Obama raised it. (NY Times) If regulations (cost of implementation) exceed the current amount of lives it will save, the law will not be implemented until life’s value transcends the cost of implementation. The process of valuing human life leaves me with more questions than answers. How can we love human life less than the price of safety implementations that will preserve it? Would an equal system do more harm than good? Being at the lower socioeconomic level, I would want equal value, but what if I was on the other end of the spectrum?



Belo, Eran, and Tomislava Savcheva. “Value of Human Life: Different Cultures, Different Values?” Journal of Multidisciplinary Research, vol. 3, no. 3, 2011, pp. 143-146. ProQuest, http://ezproxy.cpcc.edu/login?url=https://www-proquest-com.ezproxy.cpcc.edu/docview/922374977?accountid=10008.2

Frakt, A. (2020, May 11). Putting a Dollar Value on Life? Governments Already Do. Retrieved November 24, 2020, from https://nyti.ms/3cnXFJg

Gulker, Max. “Reflections on the Economic Value of Life.” CE Think Tank Newswire, April 25, 2020. ProQuest, http://ezproxy.cpcc.edu/login?url=https://www-proquest-com.ezproxy.cpcc.edu/docview/2394767695?accountid=10008

Kagan, J. (2020, August 28). Human-Life Approach. Retrieved November 26, 2020, from https://www.investopedia.com/terms/h/humanlifeapproach.asp


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *