PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFULS RUNNING ON PROMISES THEY’LL NEED SOMEONE ELSE’S MONEY TO FULFILL
Presidential election years, more than many others, focuses our attention on politics, those running for political office, and the promises the competing candidates make to sway our allegiance and votes toward one or some of them in comparison to others. They want us to give them political power by promising to use that power to benefit some of us in ways that can only come at the expense of others in society.
This fundamental truth about the reality of modern-day politics gets blurred in the hoopla of whose ahead in the public opinion polls, which candidate has the most charm or cunning, and what forms do their attacks on each other take.
We need to step back and look at things in terms of “first principles” if the entire process and its consequences are to be put into focus and perspective. Otherwise, we get lost in all the minutia of daily media news spins, and forget what it is really all about.
Political Means vs. Economic Means to Betterment
A little over a hundred years ago, the German sociologist, Franz Oppenheimer (1864-1943), in his book, The State (1914), explained that there are fundamentally two ways to obtain the things you desire in society. What Oppenheimer called, “the political means” or the “economic means.” By the political means, he meant the use of political power and force to acquire from others what you want. By the economics means, Oppenheimer meant the use of peaceful methods of production, either through producing directly things you want and desire, or to obtain them through voluntarily and mutually agreed-upon trade and exchange.
Through history, Oppenheimer said, people had often used the political means. He suggested this has been the origin of governments. Roving bands of thieves and plunders would invade and conquer lands to seize the wealth of others. If they settled down to more permanently rule over and live off the productive efforts of those now under their coercive control, there would be born what today we call a “State.”
Oppenheimer’s analysis of the origin and nature of the State has been more recently developed by the noted economist, Mancur Olson (1932-1998). He, too, argued that the origin of the State could be seen in the replacement of roving bands of plundering thieves by stationary bandits who settle down to rule over a territory over a prolonged period.
The roving band cares nothing for what happens in the area it has looted and then moved on. But the stationary bandits who want to live off the conquered area permanently have to take into consideration the conditions and the incentives of their “subjects” if they are to keep producing and therefore creating something for the stationary bandits to plunder through taxation year-after-year.