(Neil:s note: Another short section from a larger essay on bottom up and top down thinking.)
Next, I’ll look at the economic effects, which flow from bottom up and top down approaches. Why are these so important? Because almost everyone – even those with no interest in politics – feels, very directly, the effects of problems in the economy.
I’ll begin with a longish quote from the book The State (first published 1908, English edition 1922) by the German philosopher Franz Oppenheimer:
“There are two fundamentally opposed means whereby man, requiring sustenance, is impelled to obtain the necessary means for satisfying his desires. These are work and robbery, one’s own labor and the forcible appropriation of the labor of others…
I propose in the following discussion to call one’s own labor and the equivalent exchange of one’s own labor for the labor of others, the ‘economic means’ for the satisfaction of needs, while the unrequited appropriation of the labor of others will be called the ‘political means.’”
What Oppenheimer is telling us is that using the economic means is very different from using the political means. For, think what happens when we buy shoddy goods or services in a free market. If we don’t like what we get, we can look for, and at need switch to, another supplier next time. Better, even if we don’t ourselves go so far as changing supplier, other people switching will give our supplier a strong incentive to clean up its act.
But when the state provides shoddy tax funded services – like justice or education – then often it’s impossible to switch. And even when the state doesn’t actually prohibit competitors from providing a similar service, it’s still hard to change to non-state suppliers. For example, those who can’t afford private schools for their children, and don’t have the time or resources to homeschool, are in effect locked into the state indoctrination system.