The economic concept of "value added" refers to the cycle of production in which the organized efforts of personnel, working with capital equipment and other factors of production, make something more useful out of whatever they started with. Value-added is a simple concept and a measurable indicator of success in industries or individual enterprises. In fact, most human endeavor can be interpreted, broadly speaking, to come under this label. The act of adding value is nothing less than participating in a wealth-creation machine - a machine producing output not just for the individual actor but for all of that individual's society. It reflects more than anything a cooperative model of behavior. However, we do not generally think of ourselves as cooperating "value adders" or partners in making our neighbors wealthy. More often, we perceive our role as workers within a competitive framework, where we strive to secure our piece of a finite pie of goods. 

Free-society governments serve primarily as arbiters of competing interests, or at least those interests with enough resources to make themselves heard. This arbitration function is another de facto check-and-balance system affecting governments, and implicitly keeps governments’ attention on a multitude of sometimes-competing issues. There is a kind of free-economy parallel with this approach; that is, an implied acknowledgement that this way of doing things might be inefficient, but at least a lot of different “stuff” gets to be expressed. Besides, it’s the very soul of competition. (Politicians might be tempted to favor this system because it gives them the most opportunity to do what they are most capable of doing, which is to exercise their own authority in bargaining among disputing interests.) These special interests, even acting en masse in all their diverse expressions, cannot however represent a comprehensive, balanced, cross-section of the issues that need to be addressed by a healthy society. Their actions are even less likely to result in logical, structured analysis of problems and their interrelationships.

For individuals and social groups, these unsettled economic times bring unease about their role in life, the extent to which their labors are compensated, and whether they have properly balanced the risk/reward equations, for not just economic activity, but also “the pursuit of happiness.” However, the fact that they can ask these questions means that individuals today have unprecedented power to exercise economic decisions – what they will do for a living, and how they will equip themselves to do it, how they shall use accumulated surpluses, and the like. Individuals are also much more aware today of how their choices relate to the global economy, including the economy, and overall well-being, of individual nation-states. The individual is the starting point for meaningful change. If individuals will do the smart thing, the “right” thing will take care of itself.