Why is politics often associated with corruption, dishonesty, and shallowness? You may be surprised to notice that there is a common denominator underneath that we have often forgotten or just haven’t bothered to think about at all.
Franz Oppenheimer once described the only two ways to work in a society. The first is based on voluntary cooperation among people where everyone is dependent on the contribution of others for creating a greater wealth in the society. This is called the economic means. You are cooperating with other people and exchanging the products and goods based on your own free will and judgement. Those concepts (i.e. products and services) will be successful that many people individually decide to favour by using them. In other words the society is ever changing and finding new ways to satisfy each individual’s needs and wants. People are trusted with the responsibility to choose for themselves and to let them to decide and know what works for them in increasing their personal happiness. Or actually there is no one to “trust” the people their choice but each individual is aware that everyone is responsible for their own life and they are the only ones who can make the right choices for them. Therefore there is no ‘people’ but only persons that are acting together by free will of choice and are aware of their responsibility for everyone else as well. Society works only when everyone contributes something positive and creative, no matter how little that is—destructive behaviour provides only havoc. If everyone is just taking, soon there is very little to take from.
The only way any society will flourish is that there are people who are producing goods and services that are innovative and demanded by other people. Production enables the wealth and sophistication in any high culture. However, people will not create or produce if they are not able to trust that they are sufficiently compensated for their efforts. In addition they need to be assured that the circumstances in the society are not expected to change in a manner that jeopardized their work that often may require significant amount of resources for extended periods of time, even years, to finish the production. New innovations and creative solutions require free will and a joy of creation. Seldom anyone bothers to go for great lengths of trouble if they are not appreciated or, even worse, if they are brutally being used or stolen of their efforts.
Oppenheimer’s second way is called the political means. This concept cannot work if nothing has been produced. It is relaying and based on other people’s efforts and work. In other words it does not produce anything new and thus increase the wealth of the society but focuses on distributing the existing wealth by arbitrary decisions. And how do those people that are working and creating things that are demanded by other people allow this to happen? They do not—they are forced by violence or a threat of violence to subdue. There is a proper word for this type of behaviour and it is called stealing. In the economic means there is no problem of distribution since people cooperate voluntarily and agree upon the terms how to trade and utilise products and services between themselves. Just visit your local supermarket and buy an apple. You did not force the supermarket to give you the apple nor did they force you to buy it, and even better—there is no third party telling you what to do or not to do. Only thieves have a problem of distribution of confiscated goods. And since the objects are already alienated from their rightful owners there are infinite amount of ways to divide the stolen wealth, and none of them any more rightful than any other and all of them are just arbitrary decisions made by third parties that have no credit for the wealth in the first place. If you approve to take by force in the first place you have very little saying about your noble or great causes for justifying your actions: you steal or you do not—there is no middle ground and a thief is a thief no matter the cause.
And what has all this to do with politics? Everything, the whole discussion in politics is about from whom to steal by force and how and to whom to share the confiscated wealth. A crime is no less crime if you use a middleman to do your dirty job. And ‘legalisation’ of stealing is no less stealing—it’s only legal stealing. The only difference between organised crime and legal stealing is that only the latter is protected by a greater use of power and force in the society. The basic idea of brutal use of force is still the same dating back thousands of years in history; only the tools and the camouflage are different. The modern lexicon is based on terms like taxation, rules and regulations, laws, and executive orders. They all are just different names for forcing people to unilateral transactions that they would not do voluntarily. Only the political means is a zero-sum game since there is only so much of confiscated wealth in any given moment. The economic means is based on freedom of choice where people are cooperating voluntarily. And implicitly it also means that both parties are willing to interact with each other and thus are content with the outcomes as well: you are happy with your fresh apple and the supermarket is happy with the amount of money you exchanged the apple for.
Next time you hear terms like trade tariffs, subsidies, welfare benefits, taxation laws or any other favourite sweet talk of the politicians see the real game underneath and ask yourself: who is forced to act/non-act and who are the ones to gain from this? Nowadays stealing is a fine art and therefore there are many ways to conduct the job. Inflation is one of them but surely not the only game in town. Many of the legislations are based on the principal where someone is restricted of access to some part of the market or to act freely among any other member of the society. For example, governments are masters of creating monopolies or oligopolies for some members of the society and forcing all the rest to interact with those specially selected members only. Often, protectionism is labelled as something beneficial: consumer protection laws, safety and health laws, approval processes and licenses, and so on. Special interest privileges delivered by your favourite politician: someone will gain and someone else will lose. Surely enough there are still those that have needs and are happy to receive more without giving anything back. They vote for politicians to solve their problems. This is the formula of politics—it is based on violence.