i Editor's Letter: Do we know the value?


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The Independent Online


"There is nothing in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and he who considers price only is that man's lawful prey," (John Ruskin) – reads a sign by the till at the magnificent (eye-wateringly expensive) west London butchers, Lidgate. I saw it on Saturday, queueing and reading about the dairy dispute in my (30p) i.

How much is a pint of milk? It's a question to trip up many a politician. Not knowing is like not having eaten a pasty. They can't be in touch with real people's lives.

It's a flawed argument. First: who buys a pint? I can tell you the price of 1.13L of Sainsbury's semi-skimmed, but only after checking online. I can't swear to paying 89p in W4 too, because although I buy milk every visit, it falls below my "pain" threshold, the level at which I pay attention to price. What am I going to do, (sorry, Ma) shop around for cheaper milk? My life is too short.

Many people do though, some out of cussedness, most from necessity. Many know the cost of every item they buy: milk, baked beans, loo roll, toothpaste. They don't just pay attention when it gets to the meat, fish and booze.

But, do we know the value? Do we care about the quality of the products we buy on the cheap – if you are reading this paper, I suggest you do. Or, that for us to buy it so cheaply, the producer, be they Somerset dairy farmers or sweatshop workers in China, may not be paid a decent, by which I mean a "living" recompense?

I'll end with what you've been reaching for - Oscar Wilde: "The cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing."