A few frequent correspondents have been discussing the value of opinions. “Greybeard” began by asking,
Why is it that my opinion is widely considered my two cents’ worth, but on the very rare occasions when people ask for it they only offer me a penny for my thoughts? Should I feel short-changed?
The question quickly provoked a response from Horace Jeffery Hodges:
Greybeard, here’s my two cents’ worth:
The two cents’ worth is based on a Marxian labor theory of value, for we all know every penny’s worth of thought that goes into composing an opinion, but a penny for an opinion (assuming “a penny for your thoughts” means this) is based on a Capitalistic supply-and-demand theory of value, and we all know how far supply exceeds demand insofar as opinions are concerned. If you feel short-changed, confess to your priest, and do so soon, for you are thinking like a communist!
Dr. Boli’s literalistic interpretation of the Bible leads him to believe that thinking like a capitalist is at least as great a sin as thinking like a communist, and probably greater (see Acts 2:44-45). This is, of course, why Christian fundamentalists in our country invariably spurn capitalism and vote for socialist candidates in every election.
Clay Potts adds his own opinion (it was a great temptation to call it his two cents’ worth, but we ought not to involve ourselves in a petitio principii):
Opinions are much like houses: everyone believes theirs is worth more than the market is willing to bear…
The truth, as anyone who has spent some time observing the world of publishing will confirm, is that there is an inverse ratio between the usefulness of an opinion and the price paid for it. Open your daily newspaper to the opinion section. You will find letters to the editor expressing the perfectly sensible opinion that children should be careful crossing the street, for which the correspondents are paid nothing. You will find editorials by local writers suggesting that the mayor and city council might work together on a comprehensive transit plan, for which the writers are paid just enough to keep them from starving before they contribute another editorial. And you will find “op-ed” columns making the most extravagantly ridiculous claims about how all the problems of the world could be solved tomorrow; their authors have published best-selling books and are multimillionaires.
If, therefore, you find that your opinions are undervalued even by your own meager standards, you may console yourself by reflecting that they must be pretty good opinions. If you were a complete idiot, you would be on the New York Times bestseller list with all the other complete idiots.