Your life has a price on it, and that price is {indirectly} defined by you.

I keep hearing and reading people say things like "That's horrible, you can't put a price on a life" and other such bullshit. I frequently hear this on Court TV - A person's son is killed, for example, and the judge says "What do you want in retribution for this?" The poor weeping mother then says "My son's life has no dollar value, it cannot be replaced." Well, it can; everything has a price. Just because it's not for sale doesn't mean it hasn't been appraised.

Before you start thinking I'm waxing philosophical, I'm not. I am quite literal. There is a dollar value on your head, and your neighbors head, and my head.

This value is determined by your peers and is applied in everyday life.

Who? This price is determined by your friendly neighborhood government branch. Before you start rolling your eyes at those guys that always do wrong, remember that these are officials elected by you the people, and putting a price on your head has always been on their agenda. I cannot think of a political group that did not want to put a price on your head, except maybe those wonky few (such as the Rhino Party in Canada).

When/Where? Ever since public health and safety became an issue, you (or your ancestors) have had a price on your head, no matter what country you come from.

How? Here's the meat. As you drive through town, or cross at a crosswalk, or wonder why powerlines are on poles and not just laying open on the ground, have you ever wondered who put them there? I don't mean the construction workers. I mean the guy that said "Yes, let's put a traffic light here." Or the guy who says "Yes, powerlines should be on poles and out of reach of children." In an economy where everything is fueled by money, do you think a person would just randomly place these safety items with no regard to their pocketbook?

Everything you see on a day-to-day basis that has been constructed (even some natural things, I suppose) has had a budget drawn up for it, a projected savings, income, costs, labour, etc. etc... A detailed report. This is easy enough for, say, buildings - you can say it will cost $X to build, $Y to maintain, and we will receive $Z from tenants - a 30% profit over 5 years and 40% profit thereafter. This (highly profitable but fantasy) building will be built.

Think about a traffic light in your head - it will cost $X to build, and $Y to maintain, and it will.. wait, where's the income?

If the traffic light is there solely for public safety, why is there not a traffic light at every intersection? Who arbitrarily says "this intersection needs one" and "this one doesn't?"

The accountant, that's who.

Every year a person places a revised value on a human life. It varies from area to area, person to person, but everyone does have a value. Let's say this value is $84,303 (This is how much I was worth in 1993). Now if a traffic light costs $100,000 a year to maintain, and the intersection has 1 fatality per year, this traffic light will not be built.

The effect is more magnified in remote areas - people living out in "the boonies" are usually worth less than city folk, but the costs to pipe the electricity out for a traffic light make it worth quite a bit more. Vandalism usually drives up the maintenance costs as well. Let's say the light costs $600,000 per year to maintain, and a person is worth $40,000. At this imaginary intersection, FIFTEEN PEOPLE COULD DIE EVERY YEAR and a traffic light would not be installed.

Don't roll your eyes at this fantasy - in my hometown of Nanaimo, this was a reality. There was an intersection between an old boonies road and a logging road - both of which were frequently used for partying teens and their cars. The intersection origionally had a yield sign, but the 5-8 deaths per year warranted the cost of a stop sign. However, to get a lighted intersection would be of enormous cost, and the city refused to pay for it.

There are still 3-5 deaths per year at that intersection, to this day.

Your value is determined by your standard of living, how much the government loses in various refunds and paperwork after your death, and such factors as loss of taxation income, resale of your house, and your general value to society. Smaller towns usually have one set value for "city" folk and "region" folk (those living near or outside city limits), but larger cities usually have a distinct value for people in every suburb. From various folk I have spoken with, the values ranged from around $30,000 - $150,000 (CA).

Why? Money.