There are no good or bad values

Our values have a huge impact on our lives, but there are no good or bad values, or are there?

Photo from Shutterstock, licensed to author

The origin of values

No values are better or worse than others. There are no intrinsically good or bad values. This may sound polemic, but it’s true. The mere sense of something being “good” or “bad” is a judgement we make based on our values. Different cultures, groups, families, and individuals have forged different values for evolutive reasons and because it was convenient for them, but no value system is better or superior to others. Some may bring some advantages in a particular area to its holders but may be disadvantageous in another one. Deciding which of these areas is important implies a value judgement in itself.

Compassion is a great value to have (photo from Shutterstock, licensed to author)

Fast and Slow Thinking

The Economics Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman condensed decades of research on psychology and the mind’s workings in his now famous book Thinking, Fast and Slow. He explains here that the brain has two systems of thinking: one is fast, emotional, unconscious, stereotypical, and frequent; the other one is slow, rational, logical, calculating, conscious. When we think of ourselves as making decisions, we like to think we use the second system, but we use the first one more frequently than not. This is where cognitive biases come from.

The mind works in mysterious ways (photo from Shutterstock, licensed to author)

Democracy, the least bad form of government?

Most Western countries think democracy is the best form of government, or paraphrasing Churchill, the least bad of them all. We take this for granted and as absolute truth, but it wasn’t always like this. In some other places in the world, it isn’t this way today. Many people in China will tell you their government is working well for them, thank you very much, and that they don’t need the chaos, short-termism, and decadence they now associate with Western democracies.

How to be more conscious about our values

If Kahneman, Haidt, and other thinkers are right, we choose our values through mainly an unconscious process, based on emotions (fear is a strong emotion driving many of the values in the US election at the moment, for example), and subject to very strong cognitive biases. Before you throw your arms in despair and give up, thinking that there isn’t much you can do about it, there are a few things you can do:

Values of the Humane Future of Work

As I said above, it is not my place to tell others how to live their lives and what values to have, even less to say to them what party to vote for! However, as the promoter of a Humane Future of Work, I can, and I should postulate what I think should be the values prevailing in this future.



Writer, coach, HR executive. I inspire people to build a humane future of work at

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