… is from page 197 of a selection of Henry Wilson’s 1902 A Catechism of Individualism – a selection that appears in the excellent 2015 reader, Individualism, edited by George H. Smith and Marilyn Moore; Wilson’s essay is written in question-and-answer form (original emphasis):
Do not some writers, like Ruskin, say that value is inherent in a thing?
They do. Ruskin says that a picture by Botticelli has inherent value, while a cask of whiskey has not only no value, but has, so to speak, a minus value.
What is your comment on this?
On analyzing this statement I find that value is still a matter of opinion, only it is Ruskin’s opinion of what satisfies his desires, instead of the opinion of those concerned of what satisfies their desires.
Thus it has always been. Some people (John Ruskin was neither the first nor the last), fueled by their own outgrown sense of moral and intellectual superiority, elevate their own subjective values and assessments of reality into supposed objective values and assessments of reality – values and assessments that, they are convinced, are so indisputably correct that the state should force multitudes of diverse individuals each to behave as if they all share those values and assessments of reality.
It’s worse than ‘one-size-fits-all’; it’s ‘my-size-fits-all.’ What appalling arrogance!
Real-world examples abound: ‘activists’ who want the state to strip low-skilled workers of the ability to bargain for employment by offering to work at wages below that wage that these ‘activists’ have somehow divined is objectively appropriate; ‘human-rights proponents’ who demand that governments prevent poor people from working in factories that these ‘proponents’ have espied with their presumed superior vision are too hazardous for those workers; community ‘leaders’ who insist that consumers and entrepreneurs interacting voluntarily underestimate the real value of a sports stadium and, therefore, the government must force them to pay higher taxes to pay for the building of such stadia that they choose on their own not to build.