Can someone who has been kicked out of school twice, has been arrested multiple times and has been portrayed taking drugs become a millionaire? Of course he can, as long as he writes songs that don’t even make sense and talks about money, drugs and sex.

That’s the story of the young rapper Lil Pump who managed to make millions and become famous even before reaching adulthood. If you listen to his songs you will probably wonder that something is going really wrong with the quality in the music industry today. 

At the same time, other teenagers at his age, more clever and more hard-working struggle to enter the university and no matter how good students they will be, they will probably never make as much money as he does. Isn’t this a tremendous injustice?

Well, this concern was also common among classical economists. Obviously, they didn’t wonder why rappers get rich, but they couldn’t understand how people can value higher things that were practically useless over other things that were much more important; they called it the paradox of value. 

Today, there are many musicians who are better than rappers in terms of musical knowledge, composing and singing but nobody knows them and they barely make money from their music. For someone who has been studying music for all of his life, it seems unfair to see uneducated people who can’t even play an instrument becoming successful. 

However, in order to say what is fair and what not, we have to define first what is value and how we can measure it. In other words, we have to find out why Rap is considered more valuable than other types of music, at least in terms of popularity and money making.

Through the years many theories of value have been expressed from many important intellectuals. The public opinion about value is closer to the labour theory of value which was expressed by Karl Marx. Marx claimed that the price of something is determined by the total amount of socially necessary labor required to produce it. 

At first glance, that sounds fair; the more effort you put, the more valuable your work is. If a musician has been studying for all of his life and he is able to conduct an orchestra, then he is more valuable than someone who just talks about drugs and sex. However, reality doesn’t work this way. The problem is not how much you work, or how good you think your work is; all it matters is what each person thinks about your work; or to be more specific, if each person is willing to give your money to listen to your music.

This is why mainstream economics have rejected the labour theory of value and have adopted the subjective theory of value instead. Because there is no such thing as ‘’adjective values’’. Everything has a value relatively to the enjoyment it makes to the individual. Sure, classical piano requires years of training but does it satisfy the individual’s highest subjectively ranked preference? If we see the audience’s preferences, then Rap seems to satisfy them more. 

Is this fair? Of course it is. Unfair is something which is derived from an unjust action. If we let each individual to spend his money voluntarily, he will buy the good or service that satisfies him the most. When someone condemns how rappers get rich, his problem is not the Rap industry, but how people spend their money.


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Image: Pixabay

About the Author

Evangelos Andreou

Evangelos Andreou is editor in chief of Speak Freely. He studies political science at Panteion University and Finance at the American College of Greece.

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